Orioles designate Atkins for assignment
Veteran disappointed things didn't work out in Baltimore
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles designated Garrett Atkins for assignment prior to Sunday's series finale against the Nationals, recalling right-handed reliever Koji Uehara in his place.
Atkins batted .214 with one homer and nine RBIs in 140 at-bats and his ineffectiveness relegated him to a bench role, forcing the Orioles to trade for right-handed power bat Jake Fox on June 22. Atkins made just five starts in the Orioles past 28 games, going 0-for-3 -- including a double-play ball with the bases loaded -- in his last start on Friday.
The pending return of outfielder Felix Pie -- coupled with the production of Fox and Scott Moore -- made Atkins' release from Baltimore a near certainty, with rumors swirling the last few days.
Atkins, who was well aware of his situation, acknowledged on Friday that it could be a blessing in disguise. Recently released Rays designated hitter Pat Burrell has found a new home and regained his power stroke in San Francisco, and Atkins said when the O's cut ties, he won't look at it as a bad thing.
"Not at all," he said in an interview with MLB.com. "[It would] be a welcome opportunity."
Atkins was non-tendered by the Colorado Rockies after the 2009 season and was signed by the Orioles to a one-year contract guaranteed to net him $4 million this season. Baltimore had a club option for 2011, and by choosing to designate Atkins, will also pay him a $500,000 buyout.
"We gambled that we could resurrect a bat, and it just wasn't happening," said president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who was hopeful when he signed Atkins this winter that he could return to the 20-homer, 100-RBI form of seasons past.
"From Spring Training we just didn't see the power coming back. And Moore and Fox offer us more flexibility in more positions. With Atkins it was either first base or DH."
Toward the end, it became just the bench. Atkins made 17 starts combined in March and April, and another 17 in May, but appeared in just six games, with 14 at-bats in the month of June.
"I know [interim manager Juan Samuel] feels bad, there's only so many spots to go around in the lineup," Atkins said Friday.
"Guys that have been in my position have done a good job. So, you can't really complain about not playing when guys are playing good."
Samuel, who had a meeting with Atkins during the team's recent series in San Diego, praised the way the veteran handled the situation. He reiterated that sentiment during Atkins' farewell.
"[Atkins] said he was sorry things didn't work out for him, that he wasn't able to do more to help us," Samuel said. "He's a veteran. He understands."
A soft-spoken guy who rarely left his locker, Atkins was described as a professional by several teammates, including Ty Wigginton and close friend Moore, who works out with Atkins in the offseason.
"Unfortunately it was a tough situation, but he's always been a professional," Moore said of Atkins, who lives just 20 minutes away from him in the offseason. "[He] always had a good attitude, always was here rooting for [his] teammates and the team."
While Moore has started to hit his way into more playing time, the acquisition of utility man Fox was widely regarded as the nail in the coffin regarding Atkins' tenure.
"His opportunities were going to become fewer and fewer," said MacPhail, who added that he thought the organization gave Atkins ample time to turn it around.
The move will free up at-bats for Fox off the bench, as well as Moore, and Samuel said he has no problem using either one of those guys at first base, if need be.
As for Atkins, he will be placed on waivers, where the Orioles will have 10 days to either trade him or grant him his release. If Atkins clears through waivers, he would have to accept a Minor League assignment with the O's or could opt to sign a Minor League free-agent deal elsewhere.
It's an option Atkins has not ruled out, and he told MLB.com on Friday that he would weigh all available options before deciding what was best.
"Sometimes starting fresh somewhere, probably those things will help [his power potential]," Samuel said. "He's a great guy. He was professional throughout this whole process, and understands why he wasn't playing. He was very quiet, didn't cause any issues in the clubhouse. He was just a veteran professional."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.