When it comes to the building blocks of making the Orioles a winning franchise, Manny Machado is obviously a key piece. But executive vice president Dan Duquette inherited the 20-year-old phenom.
And when you look at the Orioles’ 7-1 win over the Royals on Friday night – while Machado played a huge role, hitting his first two major league homers and driving in four – the victory was a testament to the lesser-known moves that Duquette has made.
Left fielder Nate McLouth and second baseman Omar Quintanilla sandwiched Machado at the bottom of the Orioles batting order. The 7-8-9 trio was a combined 7-for-12 with a double, three homers, four runs scored and seven RBIs.
McLouth hit a key RBI double in the sixth before Machado’s second homer of the night. Quintanilla gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead with his second homer of the season.
Duquette signed McLouth, a former NL All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder with the Pirates, off the waiver wire scrap heap in June, one of countless veteran reclamation projects – some that panned out (McLouth, Lew Ford) and others that didn’t (Dontrelle Willis, Jamie Moyer, Miguel Tejada and J.C. Romero). Now he’s sharing every-day left field duties with Ford.
Quintanilla has been an incredible addition. Acquired from the Mets for cash considerations, Duquette picked him up after second basemen Brian Roberts and Robert Andino both hit the disabled list. Duquette liked his glove and a sampling of his on-base percentage, but he still appeared to be a short-term fix. Now, the Orioles have a hard time keeping him out of the starting lineup.
And then there’s Miguel Gonzalez, who the Orioles signed in late February after spotting him pitching in the Caribbean Series. Gonzalez had been in the minors since 2005, and missed two full seasons with injuries. He had a hard time getting innings in minor league came this spring.
But on Friday, Gonzalez pitched one of his best games as a big leaguer, holding the Royals to one runs in a career-high eight innings. While Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Zach Britton are in Triple-A Norfolk, the 28-year-old Gonzalez is quickly becomng a rotation fixture.
And while every successful organization needs the “can’t-miss” players like Machado, they also need the “maybe” players like Gonzalez, McLouth and Quintanilla.