FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Aubrey Huff gripped a bat and a ball for the first time since late September yesterday, hoping that months of inactivity again result in one of the finest offensive seasons in the American League.
Huff, who reported to Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday with a bleached blond hairdo and several new tattoos, acknowledged his offseason preparation basically amounted to his doing very little. And that was by design.
After the 2007 season, Huff had hernia surgery, which prevented him from doing any baseball-related activity until he arrived at spring training. All he did last season was hit .304 with 32 home runs and 108 RBIs. That's why this year, he decided he might as well stick with what works.
"I just tried to do as much as I can like I did last year," Huff said.
Huff, 32 and the Orioles' likely everyday first baseman, said he feels no pressure to duplicate his strong 2008 season, even though he's entering the final year of his contract.
"I don't really believe in pressure too much," Huff said. "I just go out there and play, and if the numbers come, they come. I think pressure is pretty worthless, really. ... I'm looking forward to playing a little first base. I seem to do well DH-ing, but, in all honesty, it does get kind of tired at times. You sit and watch your teammates go out there and play the full game while you're just sitting there rotting a little bit."
Huff said he has had no talks about a contract extension with Orioles president Andy MacPhail, though he'd certainly be willing to listen.
"I think I may have run out of Tampa too early," Huff said. "I had been in Tampa for six straight years of losing, losing, losing, and it was time to get out of there. And then I leave there and they start getting good. I would hate for that to happen here."
Montanez not conceding
Outfielder Lou Montanez, who earned a late call-up last season after putting up Triple Crown numbers at Double-A Bowie, arrived at camp to face a crowded outfield situation in the wake of the offseason acquisitions of Felix Pie and Ryan Freel.
Not that he is surprised by any of it. He monitored MacPhail's offseason reconstruction project and knows it could dramatically affect his chances of making the 25-man roster out of spring training.
"I'm always paying attention," he said. "It's kind of like reality TV for me. I follow everything that comes out. ... It's expected - in the big leagues - there's going to be competition. I think that makes you better. It's a long spring, and a lot of things can happen. You always come in trying to outdo the other guys. You wish everybody luck, but you want to be the luckier one."
The Orioles are being cautious with All-Star reliever George Sherrill, who tweaked his left hamstring this week. Sherrill, who had the same injury last year early in camp, is being held out of some conditioning drills, though it has not affected his throwing.
"It's just a tight hamstring, like I always have," Sherrill said. "I think it's the same one as last year. Something always goes wrong in spring. It's good to get it out of the way early. These things happen. It's not something I'm too worried about."
Pitcher Mark Hendrickson has also been held out of some conditioning drills because of hip soreness. ... Reliever Kam Mickolio had to leave the field with cramps. ... Infielders Cesar Izturis and Ty Wigginton reported to camp yesterday. ... Nonroster right-hander Scott Chiasson was held out of yesterday's workout because he was ill.