Huff after some repeat business in '09
Veteran looking to duplicate last season's numbers this year
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Aubrey Huff isn't afraid of repeating his success. One season after a career year, Baltimore's first baseman is hardly worried about whether he can do it again. Huff arrived at Spring Training camp on Wednesday and seemed confident, confiding to the media that the only pressure he feels is self-imposed.
"I don't really believe in pressure too much," said Huff, who won the American League's Silver Slugger for designated hitters last season. "I just go out there and play, and if the numbers come, they come. I think pressure is pretty worthless, really. One day, I'm going to be dead and nobody is going to care. You know what I mean?"
Huff had a well-documented return to form last year, an offensive comeback fueled by a streamlining of his mental resources. The slugger was unable to work out before the 2008 season due to a sports hernia surgery, and he traced his clarity to the twin circumstances of his first child's birth and the death of close friend Joe Kennedy.
This offseason, Huff took a cue from that success and refused to obsess over his numbers. He didn't work out heavy, and he didn't pick up a bat until he arrived at Fort Lauderdale Stadium on Wednesday. Still, Huff is confident about the moves his team has made, and he's quite sanguine about his chances of remaining an Oriole well into the future.
"I think I may have run out of Tampa [Bay] too early," Huff said of the team that drafted and developed him. "I had been in Tampa for six straight years of losing ... and it was time to get out of there. And then I leave there and they start getting good. I would hate for that to happen here."
Huff has his future in his own hands. The veteran is entering the final season of a free-agent contract that he signed before the 2007 season, and he can earn a hefty raise with another strong year. If that's not in the stars, he can choose to seek an extension in Baltimore or freely choose his next team next winter.
|"I certainly am looking forward to playing a little bit of first this year. Don't get me wrong, DH'ing every now and then is fine. It keeps you kind of fresh. But I'm definitely excited to play first."|
|-- Aubrey Huff|
Put another way, the simple fact that his contract is about to expire means that Huff's out of long-term security, but he claims not to worry about his future between the lines. The left-handed hitter said that he won't be cowed by trade rumors, citing the fact that he had to play through them for much of his tenure in Tampa Bay.
"With Tampa, it seemed like every year, I was a guy that was dangled out there," Huff said by way of explanation. "I would be on 'SportsCenter.' At one point, I was in that Manny Ramirez deal in '05. I went into the game thinking I was getting traded that day. It's something that I've dealt with my whole career. I don't put too much emphasis on it. I've been traded once to Houston. You just never know when it might happen. You just can't really worry about it."
Huff will be wearing a glove on a full-time basis this season, slotting in as Baltimore's regular first baseman and ceding DH duties to Luke Scott. Part of the rationale for that move is to make the Orioles a better defensive team in the outfield, but Huff requested to play the field more often, and he is confident it will help his offense.
"I seem to do well DH'ing, but in all honesty, it does get kind of tired at times," said Huff. "You sit and watch your teammates go out there and play the full game while you're just sitting there rotting a little bit.
"I certainly am looking forward to playing a little bit of first this year. Don't get me wrong, DH'ing every now and then is fine. It keeps you kind of fresh. But I'm definitely excited to play first."
And the bottom line, as far as Huff's concerned, is that the Orioles are beginning to put together a dangerous team. Baltimore's cleanup hitter said that he expects the team's pitching and defense to be much improved and the offense to be every bit as good as it was last year, yielding a team that can compete in the AL East.
"I enjoy the organization," Huff said. "I wouldn't mind giving it a run here. It seems like [president of baseball operations] Andy MacPhail is making all the right moves. We've got some pieces in place. We've got a lot of young pitching in the organization that's supposedly high on the prospect lists, and that's where it all starts: Starting pitching. We can surprise some people."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.