Just about a year ago, when the Orioles were in town to play the Texas Rangers in the series prior to the All-Star Break, Buck Showalter was contemplating whether he should return to the game as Orioles manager.
He even had a clandestine meeting near Dallas with Andy MacPhail, the club's president of baseball operations, while the Orioles were in the midst of sweeping the Rangers in a four-game series.
When the Orioles played at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Monday night for the first time since that fateful meeting, Showalter was in the visiting dugout.
"I hope we have the same series they had last year," Showalter said. "But I haven't really given [this return] a whole lot of thought. We got so many things going on right now. … They got so many new players from when I was here."
Showalter managed the Rangers from 2003 to 2006 and still has a home in Dallas. Only a handful of players that he managed are still here — most notably Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and C.J. Wilson — but he still has plenty of friends in the area. He joked that he had a full pass list for tickets for the three-game series here.
"The only thing I'm really that familiar with is, Michael [Young] is here. And the ballpark a little bit," Showalter said.
Showalter isn't the only Oriole with prominent ties to the Rangers and Texas. Vladimir Guerrero played with the Rangers last year, going to the World Series for the first time in his career.
"Now I am a Baltimore Oriole, but I am looking forward to saying hello to some friends," Guerrero said through interpreter Rudy Arias. "I only played here one year, but it was a great year."
Guerrero said he was curious to see how the Rangers' fans would treat him when he was introduced in his first at-bat — since he was booed when he first returned to Anaheim. But on Monday he received polite applause from the crowd.
In addition to Guerrero, Jake Arrieta, who starred at Texas Christian University and idolized Rangers president Nolan Ryan as a kid, and Michael Gonzalez are both from Texas, and Zach Britton graduated from high school in Weatherford, a suburb of Dallas.
"A lot of guys have a background from here. It says a lot about the state of Texas," Showalter said.
Guerrero at cleanup
Guerrero returned to the lineup after three days of being relegated to pinch-hit duty while the Orioles played in a National League park in Atlanta.
And he returned to the cleanup spot, where he has batted in all 70 games he has started this season despite driving in just 28 runs — sixth on the team. On Sunday, Mark Reynolds batted fourth for the first time this season, and hit a game-winning homer.
But Showalter said he's not yet ready to move Guerrero from the cleanup spot, especially in games against Texas — a club and pitching staff Guerrero knows well.
"We've adjusted some spots in the batting order. I just don't think the timing is quite right here," Showalter said. "He's coming back here to Texas. I think he might get a little juice from there. He's got a lot of close friends here. We'll see where it takes us. If we have to make an adjustment after the all-star break or something we will. But I don't think we are right quite there yet."
Guerrero was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat Monday and Reynolds followed with his 19th homer of the season.
Uehara handling workload, heat, reunion
Orioles reliever Koji Uehara, who pitched in back-to-back games this weekend, said he worked hard this offseason to lose some weight and improve his conditioning for the grueling major league season. He said he is no longer bothered by pitching in consecutive games and isn't "too concerned" about pitching in the summer heat, even in sweltering Texas.
"In the beginning of the season the manager sort of gave me extra days' rest," said Uehara, who is 1-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 35 games this season. "He is using me back-to-back now. And I am getting ready, prepared, to pitch every day, so that is how I am approaching it."
Monday was a bit unique for Uehara because one of his high school teammates, Texas setup man Yoshinori Tateyama, was on the other side of the diamond. That's not unheard of in big league baseball — unless, of course, they grew up in Japan.
"To see him on the field would be cool," Uehara said through an interpreter. "But I see him pretty often so it's not going to be that kind of moment."
Uehara said Tateyama, a 35-year-old rookie in the majors after pitching 11 seasons in Japan, was the pitching star in high school. Uehara was primarily an outfielder.
Atkins likely starting Tuesday
Right-hander Mitch Atkins, who missed all of spring with a left oblique strain, appears to be the Orioles starter for Tuesday's game against the Rangers.
He was summoned from Triple-A Norfolk and was at the park Monday but was not activated. However, when Alfredo Simon was needed to pitch in long relief in the third inning Monday, it took him out of the running for Tuesday's assignment.
So that means Atkins almost certainly will get the call for his first big league start. The 25-year-old righty appeared in seven games in relief for the Chicago Cubs in the past two seasons, compiling a 5.25 ERA. He started 14 games in the Orioles' organization this year, going 3-6 with a 3.18 ERA at Frederick, Bowie and Norfolk.
He is not on the 40-man roster, but the Orioles have an open spot. They will, however, have to make a corresponding move on the 25-man roster when they purchase Atkins' contract.
Around the horn
Temperature at first pitch was 100 degrees. … The Orioles and Rangers each wore hats with red, white and blue logos to honor Fourth of July. … Britton, who was 5-for-8 during interleague play, including a hit in each of his three starts, has totaled more hits in a season than any other American League pitcher during the designated hitter era, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
twitter.com/danconnollysunCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times