By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
5:39 PM PDT, August 23, 2011
The three-season, up-and-down Orioles career of Felix Pie likely came to an end Tuesday when the outfielder was designated for assignment to make room for outfielder Matt Angle.
As he walked out of the visitors' clubhouse at Target Field, Pie said he was disappointed and somewhat surprised by the move but hopes he'll get a chance to play more elsewhere.
"It's a business. I know that. It's better for me, because here I don't play. And I know I can play every day," said Pie, who hit .220 with no homers and seven RBIs in 164 at-bats this season. "I showed the team I could play every day last year, and I did my job. This year, I tried to do my job, too. But it's difficult, tough not to play."
The Orioles have 10 days to trade, release or ask waivers on Pie. If he clears waivers, he could elect to become a free agent instead of joining Triple-A Norfolk, but he would then forfeit what's remaining of his $985,000 salary for 2011.
"It just happened, and it surprised me. But in a way, it's much better for me because I won't play every day here, so I'll wait to see what team takes me," Pie said. "And, hopefully, with another team, I'll play every day."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the team could know by Thursday whether Pie will join the Tides.
"For us, we hope he clears and decides to go to Norfolk and gets some at-bats and gets back to doing what he is capable of doing. The bad side of that is someone can pick him up or he can become a free agent if he wants to," Showalter said. "It's kind of to be continued. We'll see Thursday and see where it takes us."
Once thought to be the club's left fielder of the future after being acquired from the Chicago Cubs for left-hander Garrett Olson and a minor leaguer in 2009, Pie struggled with injuries in 2010 and never got on track this year. His playing time dwindled dramatically in the past month as Nolan Reimold received the bulk of playing time in left; Pie had just 21 plate appearances in August. Overall, he played in 85 games and started 36 this year — which Showalter felt was ample time to demonstrate his abilities.
"I got to see him play pretty well last year, so you know the potential is there, but we had to create a scenario where he could get back to being that guy. And there are some risks involved, but about everything is [risky]," Showalter said. "We've got to get him back in that mode, and there really wasn't a way to do that here with Nolan and the way we are kind of set up."
In parts of three seasons as an Oriole, Pie batted .259 with 14 homers and 67 RBIs in 704 at-bats. He had a .303 on-base percentage, a .391 slugging percentage and stole nine bases in 16 attempts. His defense ranged from spectacular to downright unwatchable while his base running was often confounding for someone blessed with his speed. On Sunday in Anaheim, Calif., he butchered a fly ball that seemed to encapsulate the troubles he has had this year.
"Felix is better than that. I saw him last year play as good of left field as you want to see played," Showalter said. "When you see things carry over to other phases of the game, stolen bases, he didn't really ever get as relaxed as he was last year when I was here, for some reason. … Sometimes it's about productivity and not having success. And I kept trying to give him some rope and see if he would run with it."
Named the best prospect in the Cubs' system in 2005 and 2006 by Baseball America, Pie never realized his five-tool talent in the majors, partially because he seemed handcuffed by a lack of baseball instincts. Only 26 — the same age as Adam Jones and younger than Nick Markakis and Reimold — Pie feels he still has time to meet his potential.
"Nothing is wrong with me. I am the kind of player [who needs] to play every day. That didn't happen with me. And you put Markakis in that situation or Adam and whoever and they'll do the same thing because they are players that need to play every day, too," he said. "Me, I played 85 games, but I started like . I don't got a chance. I don't know why, what I have to do to get a chance to play every day. But that's the business, and I have to take it."
Popular among teammates for his intense but playful personality, Pie said he'll miss the Orioles players and the organization that gave him a second chance.
"Those guys are my friends, and that was my team here. They gave me an opportunity in 2009, 2010 to play," he said. "So I am going to miss them, but if another team takes me, I have to look at it that way and go play every day."
Pie showed flashes during his Orioles career, hitting for the cycle in 2009 and beginning 2010 as the team's hottest player before ripping a muscle in his back that cost him roughly three months of the season.
"Everybody was given an opportunity, but I think what hurt him was getting hurt [in 2010] and missing three months," Jones said. "And that moved everybody up. I just think he needs to play, and I still think he can play at this level."
Left field will primarily be Reimold's job, but Angle and Jake Fox also could get starts there.
"I have been wondering for the longest [time] who is going to play every day in the outfield, left field, especially. And I wanted to see [Pie] play every day. And I think the best opportunity for him now, and my first hope, is that somebody picks him up," Jones said.
"I think he can help out any ballclub, especially an NL ballclub, because he is a very talented player. But he needs to play. The thing is, I think everybody has seen in the last month, he's probably had like 20 at-bats. So he needs to go play somewhere."
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