ARLINGTON, Texas — When people think of the Baltimore Orioles these days, they think of the Birds’ power-hitting first baseman Chris Davis, who heading into Saturday’s second of three games in Texas was hitting .311 with 37 HR, 93 RBI and an OPS of 1.097.
Of course, since Davis was an American League All-Star and one of the big stories in the Junior Circuit in the first half, the East Texas native is more than deserving of any recognition he receives.
He is naturally well known among Ranger fans since he played in Arlington from 2008 until being dealt to Baltimore in July 2011 along with pitcher Tommy Hunter for bullpen arm Koji Uehara. Ranger fans might lament that trade now, especially considering the heady numbers Davis has been posting for Buck Showalter’s O’s, but as Texas skipper Ron Washington once so eloquently put it “that’s the way baseball go”.
But Davis isn’t the only ex-Ranger who is now calling Baltimore home. Hunter has emerged into a solid bullpen arm for the Birds since the trade and is 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA in his 38 appearances this season while fellow Texas expat Darren O’Day, who the O’s claimed on waivers in Nov. 2011, is 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 45 games so far this season.
O’Day was an integral part of the Ranger bullpen from 2009 through 2011 before ending up in Baltimore. Current O’s backup catcher Taylor Teagarden is a former Texas draft pick who once starred for the University of Texas Longhorns. He played in Arlington from 2008 through 2011 before being traded to the O’s in Dec. 2011.
And the recent addition of former Ranger starter and bullpen arm Scott Feldman, who came over in a July 2 trade with the Cubs gives Showalter five ex-Rangers on his roster as the Birds headed into this weekend’s three-game set with the same club he used to manage from 2003 through 2006.
Showalter is of course pleased with the contributions between the lines he’s gotten from each member of this unique group, but he even took his compliments of their efforts one step further before the start of Friday’s series in Texas.
“It’s regardless of where they’re from. They’ve been big contributors for us and I think they’ve been as much contributors as people as players,” Showalter said. “They’re solid teammates and good people who are very insistent. It’s been an honor to be around them.”
Davis and Hunter, the first two ex-Rangers to be acquired by Baltimore under Showalter, who took the reins of the Orioles in 2010, naturally have some great perspective on now being surrounded by so many familiar faces from their days in the Lone Star State.
“We obviously have known each other for a number of years, have had a chance to play with each other in Texas and then ironically got traded or signed over here. I think it’s one of the reasons the team has so much chemistry and we’re so close together is that we all came from kind of the same place,” Davis said. “I think there’s a certain feeling of kind of knowing that our careers had taken a turn and that we all ended up in a different direction here I think it’s pretty special.”
Hunter, who was predominantly a starter during his days as a Ranger and who has transitioned to the bullpen over the last year with the O’s, agrees with his current and former teammate about the bond that exists between this group of former Rangers who now call Baltimore home.
“Yeah, we’ve got a group of guys that have played together before,” Hunter said. “Any two baseball players, they’re probably going to get along at some point in some way. There’s just a lot of guys that came from the same organization. It kind of makes it a little more fun, knowing everybody pretty much. Everybody gets along, is good friends. We just go about the game the same way.”
Feldman, who began this season with the Cubs before being traded to the Orioles on July 2, admitted that it was a nice feeling to know once he arrived in Baltimore that there would be at least a few familiar faces to greet him with his new club. “Once I got traded, it was just nice to see some old buddies like that,” he said.
His occasional battery mate, Teagarden, agrees that having so many guys he has a great history with from earlier in his career has helped make his time with the Birds even more special.
“It’s a special group of guys because some of us came up through the draft. Other guys were here previously but we’re a tight group of guys that were on those ’08 to 2011 teams that started [this run]. These guys helped the Rangers win a lot of games and were big parts of it,” Teagarden said. “For whatever reason, they cut ties with them and coincidentally in Baltimore they got a chance to pick up where they left off. They got a new home and are playing really well here in Baltimore and helping this team win, so it’s pretty cool.”
However, it’s not just the bond this diverse and talented group shares of having similar roots in the Texas organization. Something else unifying this quintet is the fact that each and every one of them truly enjoy playing for Showalter, a two-time AL Manager of the Year who they feel has numerous strengths as a skipper, with one of his more notable assets being a great ability to truly relate to his players and to get them to buy into his managerial philosophy.
“He’s awesome,” Hunter said. “He takes care of you and kind of lets you do what you need to do and just lets you play baseball. Nothing more you can really ask.”
Teagarden admits he didn’t quite know what to expect as far as playing for Showalter when he joined the O’s last season. But it didn’t take him long to get a feel for playing for his current skipper, which he calls a great experience.
“I love playing for Buck,” Teagarden said. “I didn’t know what to expect because when I came to Baltimore, they were just coming off a losing season and I didn’t know what the expectations were where the Rangers were just coming off back-to-back World Series trips. It was such a relaxed, loose atmosphere and guys had been in this organization for a while, so they knew what was at stake and how hard it was to play in the [AL] East. I got a feel for that early on and Buck’s just very professional and overly prepared in a good way. Just puts his players in position to hopefully perform in games for him.”