More on the Atkins farewell
BALTIMORE–The Orioles designated Garrett Atkins for
assignment prior to Sunday’s series finale against the Nationals, recalling
right-handed reliever Koji Uehara in his place.
Atkins batted .214 with one homer and nine RBIs in 140 at-bats
and his ineffectiveness relegated him to a bench role, forcing the Orioles to
trade for right-handed power bat Jake Fox on June 22. Atkins made just five
starts in the Orioles last 28 games, going 0-for-3 -including a double-play
ball with the bases-loaded — in his last start on Friday.
The pending return of outfielder Felix Pie –coupled with
the production of Fox and Scott Moore — made Atkins’ release in Baltimore a near
certainty, with rumors swirling the last few days.
Atkins, who was well aware of his situation, acknowledged on
Friday that being DFA’ed could be a blessing in disguise. Recently released
Rays designated hitter Pat Burrell has found a new home and regained his power
stroke in San Francisco, and Atkins said when the O’s cut ties, he won’t look
at it as a bad thing.
“Not at all,” he said in an interview with
MLB.com. “[It would] be a welcome opportunity.”
Atkins was non-tendered by the Colorado Rockies after the
2009 season and was signed by the Orioles to a one-year contract guaranteed to
net him $4 million this year. Baltimore had a club option for 2011, and by
choosing to designate Atkins, will also pay him a $500,000 buyout.
“We gambled that we could resurrect a bat and it just wasn’t
happening,” said president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who was
hopeful when he signed Atkins this winter that he could return to the 20-homers,
100-RBI form of seasons’ past.
“From Spring Training we just didn’t see the power coming
back,” MacPhail said. “And Moore and Fox offer us more flexibility in more
positions. With Atkins it was either first base or DH.”
Toward the end, it became just the bench. Atkins made 17 starts
in March/April and May, but appeared in just six games, with 14 at-bats in the
month of June.
“I know [interim manager Juan Samuel] feels bad,
there’s only so many spots to go around in the lineup,” Atkins said Friday.
“Guys that have been in my position have done a good job. So, you can’t
really complain about not playing when guys are playing good.”
Samuel, who had a meeting with Atkins during the team’s
recent series in San Diego, praised the way the veteran handled the situation.
He reiterated that sentiment during Atkins’ farewell.
“[Atkins] said he was
sorry things didn’t work out for him, that he wasn’t able to do more to help
us,” Samuel said. “He’s a veteran. He understands.”
A soft-spoken guy who rarely left his locker, Atkins was
described as a professional by several teammates, including Ty Wigginton and
close friend Moore, who works out with Atkins in the offseason.
“Unfortunately it was a tough situation, but he’s always
been a professional,” Moore said of Atkins, who lives just twenty minutes away
from him in the offseason. “[He] always had a good attitude, always was here
rooting for [his] teammates and the team.”
While Moore has started to hit his way into more playing
time, the acquisition of utility-man Fox was widely regarded as the nail in the
coffin regarding Atkins’ tenure.
“His opportunities were going to become fewer and fewer,” said
MacPhail, who added that he thought the organization gave Atkins ample time to
turn it around.
The move will free up at-bats for Fox off the bench, as well
as Moore, and Samuel said he has no problem using either one of those guys at
first base, if need be.
As for Atkins, he will be placed on waivers, where the
Orioles will have 10 days to either trade him or grant him his release. If
Atkins clears through waivers, he would have to accept a Minor League
assignment with the O’s or could opt to sign a Minor League free-agent deal
It’s an option Atkins has not ruled out, and he told MLB.com
on Friday that he would weigh all available options before deciding what was
“Sometimes starting fresh somewhere, probably those things
will help [his power potential],” Samuel said. “He’s a great guy. He was professional
throughout this whole process and understands why he wasn’t playing. He was
very quiet, didn’t cause any issues in the clubhouse. He was just a veteran
Added Wigginton: “He was always one of the first guys getting excited when somebody else go to big hit or whatever. He was one of the first guys to give the guy a pat on the back. He was a very good teammate.”