Hughes contributes for O's in debut
Outfielder/first baseman goes 2-for-5 in first Major League game
BOSTON -- It was one of the greatest nights of Rhyne Hughes' life. And for a short while on Friday night, Hughes couldn't share it with anyone but his Triple-A Norfolk teammates, since there was no service in Charlotte's visitors' clubhouse and Hughes' cell phone died shortly thereafter.
"The worst thing that could have happened, happened," Hughes said.
That it came on the heels of the best thing that could have happened -- the news that he was being called up to the Orioles for his big league debut -- made the waiting palatable.
"It's something I dreamed about when I was little kid when I first played ball when I was 5 years old," the 26-year-old Hughes said.
Hughes delivered right away Saturday, singling in a run in his first at-bat in the second inning against the Red Sox. He finished 2-for-5 with one whiff.
For an Orioles offense in desperate need of a shakeup, the choice was easy.
"He is here because he was our hottest hitter in Triple-A, and obviously we need a little boost offensively," manager Dave Trembley said of the move, which sent Justin Turner back to Triple-A. "We are hoping [Hughes] will contribute to that."
A former Rays prospect, Hughes was acquired as the player to be named in the deal that sent Gregg Zaun to Tampa Bay. The infielder wields a powerful bat, but he is also a high-strikeout hitter. Hughes was lighting up Triple-A pitching, and despite an 0-for-3 performance for Norfolk on Friday, batted .353 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 15 games. He also had a .667 slugging percentage.
Trembley raved about Hughes' power potential this spring, and the Orioles are lacking a middle-of-the-lineup slugger. Although there's a stark difference between pitching at Triple-A and the Major Leagues, Baltimore is hoping Hughes can be a viable in-house option.
"Let's see what he can do in the big leagues," Trembley said before Saturday's game. "He'll be tested tonight with [Red Sox starter] John Lackey, but I am sure he is excited and up for it."
Hughes, who started in place of first baseman Garrett Atkins on Saturday, wasn't sure if he would get to play at all, let alone start, until he walked into the visitors' clubhouse and saw his name on the lineup card.
"I wasn't sure how it works," said Hughes, who was batting eighth. "But I came over here and I'm in the starting lineup against Boston at Fenway Park. It's awesome."
Any offense from Hughes would be welcome for a scuffling Orioles lineup. The team entered Saturday batting .227 with 49 runs scored in 17 games -- an average of 2.89 runs per game. The O's went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position Friday -- dropping their season RISP average to .150 -- and stranded a season-high 12 runners in the process. Of Baltimore's 15 losses, 11 have been by three runs or fewer.
With such a young Orioles team, Trembley has made the Major League debut speech many times before, and each time, he has told the player not to get too caught up in the results.
"It's not a tryout. Do the best you possibly can, relax," Trembley said, recounting his pep talk. "I know that's easier said than done. If you are not excited, you are not human. Don't live and die by each pitch or each at-bat, because you are here because you earned it. Enjoy it."
Hughes, who will have both his parents and younger brother, Hoyt, in the stands, said he gets nervous before every game. But he acknowledged that those nerves will likely be in a different category on Saturday.
"But it will be fun," Hughes said. "I'm looking forward to getting out there."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.