By Everett Cook
The Baltimore Sun
3:46 PM PDT, July 29, 2012
Lew Ford arrived in Baltimore on Saturday night, got to the ballpark Sunday morning and learned shortly thereafter that he would be playing in a major league baseball game for the first time since 2007.
It then took a little more than an inning for the "Lewwwww" calls to ring around Camden Yards, as the Orioles' newest left fielder dug a ball out of the corner and threw out A's rookie Yoenis Cespedes, who was trying to stretch a single into a double in the top of the second. Ford went 0-for-3 with a walk, but he heard his name called out any time he touched the ball.
"I already feel right at home here," Ford said. "The fans are great, and I had a lot of fun out there today. It's a great feeling to be back."
Not bad for a 35-year old who hadn't played in a major league game in almost five years.
Ford, a 12th-round selection of the Boston Red Sox in 1999, began this season with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. That followed stints in Japan and Mexico after parts of five seasons with the Minnesota Twins.
When he signed with Long Island, Ford just wanted to play and said he had no thoughts of getting back to the majors. But the Orioles signed him to a minor league contract May 18, after he hit .333 in 19 games with the Ducks.
"This is kind of more than I dreamed of," Ford said before Sunday's game. "The chance that this would happen is just so small. I'm a very realistic person, and I wasn't expecting this at all when I started off this year. To make it back here is ... I'm just so happy."
Ford batted .332 with 11 home runs and 20 RBIs at Triple-A Norfolk and became the first member of the Tides to have a five-hit game since 2008. With the Orioles in need of another bat after having a short bench the last two games, Ford's contract was purchased Sunday and he filled the roster spot that opened up when right-hander Miguel Socolovich was optioned to Norfolk on Saturday night.
"That's one of the great things about this job is that I get to take in those moments," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I had [Ford] come into my office today, and you could tell it's a special day for him. I hope tomorrow's a special day, too."
Orioles hitters have struggled with runners in scoring position recently — they stranded 11 runners on Saturday — which could be a reason why Ford was in the lineup, batting fifth, Sunday.
In Norfolk, he hit .510 with 3 home runs and 30 RBIs with runners in scoring position. He hit .571 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
"I don't know what else Lew could do to get an opportunity," Showalter said. "We felt like at some point he would get a chance here if he maintained what he was doing, and he did. He's worked real hard physically to get back."
With roster moves being so frequent around Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline, Ford might only be in Baltimore for a day or two. But for someone who expected to retire in a Long Island Ducks uniform, getting back to the majors in any capacity and for any length of time is something special.
"I love everything about baseball, and it kind of got me back to that in the independent league, [the reason] why I'm playing," said Ford, who played 494 games for the Twins, the last being the '07 season finale. "I think I'm going to enjoy this about 100 times more than I did the first time.
"This is just awesome."
Catcher Matt Wieters was held out of the Orioles' last two games because of tightness in his right biceps, but he returned to the lineup in a big way Sunday. Wieters hit a three-run home run to left-center field in the third inning that gave the Orioles an early cushion.
"It's hard sitting on it the last two days," Wieters said. "You want to get in there, and the only way to feel good at the plate is to keep swinging. It was nice."
Before sitting out, Wieters was mired in 0-for-16 slump at the plate — which was part of a 1-for-31 stretch. The home run was Wieters' only hit in four at-bats Sunday, so it's too early to tell if he is out of the slump. Still, getting Wieters back on track can only help an offense that has struggled driving in runs.
"The last couple days, he's been champing at the bit to get back in there," Showalter said. "He did a great job with [starting pitcher Wei-Yin] Chen."
The switch-hitting Wieters felt the tightness in his biceps mostly on the extension of his swing from the left side of the plate, but he was batting from the right side for most of the game against A's lefty Travis Blackley. His worst swing of the game came from the left side in the seventh inning, when he hit a weak groundout to Oakland right-hander Jim Miller.
Around the horn
Left-hander Dana Eveland cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. He is expected to start for the Tides on Tuesday. … Showalter said lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who has missed the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery, has asked to join the team in the dugout for its series in Tampa Bay this weekend. Wada, who has been rehabbing at the Orioles' spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., has yet to watch a major league game … Outfielder Nick Markakis went 0-4 on Sunday, snapping an eight-game hit streak … Reliever Pedro Strop has now made 10 straight scoreless appearances since allowing two earned runs in 1/3 of an inning July 3 at Seattle.
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