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Orioles players defend Trembley

Although he has been on the West Coast for the past week, outfielder Nick Markakis is well aware of the finger-pointing that is going on back in Baltimore over the Orioles' horrendous start.

He also knows most of the criticism is directed at Orioles manager Dave Trembley, and he has a problem understanding that.

"I don't think you can blame Trembley," Markakis said. "We're the ones out there pitching and hitting. I think he's done a good job overall. There's only so much a manager can do. The rest of it is up to the players. If you're going to point fingers, you can put it on my shoulders. I'm not swinging the bat the way I'd like to.

"I think people are looking into it too much and pointing fingers, trying to blame this and blame that. I think people need to relax and the guys in here need to start realizing that it's a game and to have fun."

The first two weeks have been anything but fun for the Orioles and their embattled manager, who entered this season — the final year of his contract — knowing he would be judged by wins and losses, and not by the development of young talent.

The Orioles are 2-14, their worst start since the 0-21 beginning to the 1988 season. They have three fewer wins than any other team in the major leagues.

Trembley held a brief, but loud, team meeting before Wednesday's game, admonishing the team for its recent play.

"It's time to dial it up and get this thing going in a positive direction and quit accepting it and saying, ‘It's OK,'" said Trembley, who appeared to be most annoyed with his hitters' failing to move runners up and lack of quality at-bats. "It's not OK. It's not OK at all. And I'm tired of covering for them. I get questions point blank, and I feel like I'm a damn presidential press secretary sometimes. Instead of telling them how it is, I have to smooth it over. I ain't smoothing it over anymore.

"I love the players. There are people that want to see them fail. I happen to be one that doesn't want them to fail. I want to see the Baltimore Orioles succeed. And I know the odds are against us, but I think we can do it. That's how I feel."

The odds are against things getting significantly better anytime soon with a stretch of 12 straight games against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees following today's first day off of the season, and with a disabled list that includes second baseman and leadoff hitter Brian Roberts, left fielder Felix Pie, closer Michael Gonzalez and setup man Koji Uehara. It appears that Uehara is the only one who has any chance of returning to the team within the next few weeks.

As the losses continue to mount, the speculation that Trembley is nearing the end of his tenure as Orioles manager increases. Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who picked up Trembley's 2010 option late last season but said the manager would be evaluated by results going forward, said last week after the team's 0-6 homestand that he wasn't looking for scapegoats.

Asked again about Trembley's status Tuesday, MacPhail said: "To me, our efforts have to be solely on trying to make the player-personnel aspect better. That's it. Our total focus right now is getting the 25 players wearing the Orioles colors right and giving them as much support as we possibly can."

The Orioles' offense, expected to be one of the team's strengths, scored just 45 runs in the first 15 games, the lowest total in the AL, and has been held to three runs or fewer in nine of the past 11 contests. Orioles hitters are also hitting a league-worst 16-for-107 (.150) with runners in scoring position. Twice on Tuesday night, an Oriole led off an inning with a double but did not budge off second base.

The back end of the bullpen, supposedly upgraded with the signing of Gonzalez, has blown three saves and given up the game-tying or go-ahead runs in the eighth or ninth inning six times this season.

However, Trembley's harshest critics, a group that seemingly grows by the day, have said the manager isn't holding players accountable, pointing to certain players not running out ground balls and the rash of fundamental mistakes the team has made. They would say that Wednesday night's meeting was a case of too little, too late.

Some have gone as far as to say the club is playing without energy and has quit on Trembley, a suggestion that rankled several prominent members of the Orioles.

"That's hogwash," reliever Jim Johnson said. "Nobody is going to ever do that because in the end, it comes down to you and it's your job, too. Unfortunately, being in the manager's spot is not the easiest because some of the things that you might get blamed for aren't all fair. But that's the position that he's in, and the position that we're in is, we just have to play. You can't worry about the other stuff that you have no control over.

"Obviously, we're not idiots. We know people have been talking about Dave's job security, but we know what we're supposed to do and we know what he's trying to do. He's trying to help us win games the best way he can. We're going to play hard, and that's what he asks for."

Markakis, one of the club's biggest disappointments with a .259 average, no homers and two RBIs, called that line of criticism "totally unfair and completely false."

"Why would we put ourselves in that kind of situation?" he said. "Losing is not fun. We don't want to lose. We're trying to go out there every day and win every game. If people are looking at it that way, I'd say it's a bunch of BS. Nobody out here is leaning in that direction, and I think I can speak for everybody else in here. We're just having a real tough stretch right now."

The Orioles had a players-only meeting before Saturday's game, and one of the topics discussed was blocking out all the negatives and starting anew with a focus on winning baseball games rather than dwelling on the awful start to the season.

"The onus is on us as players," said veteran reliever Mark Hendrickson, who called the meeting. "It has nothing to do with the coaching staff, the training staff. Those guys are going to put forth the effort no matter who is in the locker room. For us as players, we need to believe that we can be successful. Everybody in this room has been successful at some point. It's just a matter of being consistent together and picking each other up. That's when it comes. The job is to win, regardless of how young we are or how old we are, and we just haven't been doing it."

Trembley told his team Wednesday night that the excuses need to stop.

"I think it has been too repetitive for the first 15 games, and I don't want any excuses anymore about, ‘Well, this guy is hurt, we don't have that guy,'" Trembley said. "Nobody is feeling sorry for us. We've dug ourselves a hole, but it's not insurmountable. We're not going to give in or give up. But I'm not going to just let things continue to slide and say, ‘It's OK,' and accept us getting our [butts] kicked. I'm tired of that."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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