During spring camp in Sarasota, Fla., Orioles outfielder Lou Montanez jokingly compared his situation as the odd man out in the club's crowded outfield as being like the third monkey on Noah's Ark's gangplank.
He was behind both Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold on the left field depth chart and, despite batting .319 in 20 spring games, he knew he was headed back to Triple-A Norfolk when camp broke.
But when Pie was placed on the disabled list April 16 with an upper back muscle strain that will sideline him at least three months, Montanez was recalled. And with Reimold still somewhat hampered by his surgically repaired Achilles, and normal leadoff hitter Brian Roberts shelved with a herniated disk in his back, the "third monkey" finds himself starting in left field for the fourth time since being recalled and batting leadoff for the second consecutive game.
"What should I feel like now, Noah? The chosen one?" Montanez joked. "It's an opportunity, that's what it is. There have been some openings, unfortunately. And there's an opportunity for me to help the team out and contribute a little bit."
Montanez, 28, a career .284 hitter in his first 10 minor league seasons, has had big-league chances before but it has never worked out. He was the starting left fielder last April, but he tore ligaments in his right thumb while diving for a ball May 2 and missed most of the season.
A former first-round pick (third overall) in 2000 by the Chicago Cubs, Trembley said Montanez is a different player and person now.
"He's more mature, I think he would admit that," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He has been able to handle everything in a very professional way. … He is  years old now, but he is a lot younger than that for me. He is still just coming into his own."
Trembley chose Montanez to hit leadoff because he doesn't have a lot of alternatives with Pie and Roberts hurt. And though he didn't do it much in the minors, Montanez embraces the chance.
"I always thought I could be a leadoff guy because I am comfortable with two strikes," Montanez said. "I like to battle, I like to take a lot of pitches. I don't walk a lot but I do see a lot of pitches in an at-bat and that's what you want in a leadoff guy."
Third baseman Miguel Tejada was back in the lineup Friday after missing four games with a hip abductor strain. He didn't enjoy the time off, especially with the Orioles in a tailspin.
"It's difficult [to watch]," he said. "I hate losing. It's really tough right now with the way we've been playing."
Having Tejada batting cleanup and engaged in every pitch is a huge help to the team, Trembley said.
"It's a plus in a lot of different ways," Trembley said. "Hopefully, he gives us a jumpstart with the bat but also gives us a little jumpstart with the way he goes about playing. He is one of our main guys. And he was looking forward to coming here. And, obviously, we are looking to have him back in there."
Cal Ripken Jr., speaking with his brother, Billy, on their Sirius XM radio show, "Ripken Baseball," again addressed his interest in joining the Orioles as a member of the front office.
Ripken said Friday that he has had "ongoing" discussions about a job at "the major league level" with Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos and that they had dinner Thursday. Nothing is pending, he said, adding that he is targeting a time closer to when his son Ryan, a sophomore at Gilman, goes to college.
"I know that I'd like to get back in the game, I think, but on my timetable," Ripken said. "It is when my last kid, in this case Ryan, goes off to school and I'm looking at that sort of timetable. So it's not really this urgent thing."
Last week, Fox Sports first reported Ripken had discussions about re-joining the team he starred for from 1981-2001.
Around the horn
Shortstop Cesar Izturis was struck in the right ear by a grounder during pre-game fielding practice and left the field with an athletic trainer. He remained in the starting lineup. … RHP Koji Uehara (strained left hamstring) threw 13 pitches in one inning during an extended spring training game Thursday in Sarasota. He's expected to pitch again Saturday and then pitching coach Rick Kranitz will develop a plan for Uehara to go on a minor league rehab assignment. … Trembley said no decision has been made about who will start for the Orioles on May 1. He said he'd prefer not to move Jason Berken out of the long relief role because he has excelled at it. Brad Bergesen, who was demoted to Norfolk after three poor performances, is still the leading candidate for that spot.