By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 29, 2008
BALTIMORE, Sept. 28 -- Orioles fans reviled Aubrey Huff when the season began in April, an expected response after an underachieving 2007 season followed by an offseason radio appearance in which he bashed Baltimore.
But time heals. And after enduring boos that persisted even as he embarked on the best start of his career, Huff reestablished himself as a legitimate cleanup hitter, which changed the complexion of an Orioles lineup that was expected to lack pop.
Huff hit .306 with 32 homers and 108 RBI to win the Most Valuable Oriole award, as announced by the team before Sunday's season-ending loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
"Maybe this was his way of trying to undo some of the things that he probably wished he could have taken back," Orioles Manager Dave Trembley said.
The 31-year-old led the American League with 82 extra base hits and set career highs in doubles (48) and runs (96).
"I was fortunate enough to get those numbers this year and it makes it a little bit sweeter what I did go through in the offseason with the fans and everything," Huff said. "Hopefully, all is forgotten and we can go into next year and try to do it all over again -- but not the radio show though."
Huff reached his preseason goals of a .300 average, 30 homers and 100 RBI despite an offseason interrupted by surgery for a sports hernia and the fallout from his radio appearance. The injury kept Huff from baseball until spring training.
But the change in routine helped Huff avoid a sluggish start for the first time in his career.
"This year I did absolutely nothing except for maybe stretching and cardio," he said. "I didn't pick up a bat or baseball until spring training. And I guarantee that's what I'll do again this year."Johnson's Role May Not Change
Trembley indicated on Sunday that he is leaning toward keeping Jim Johnson in his role as a set-up man, instead of moving him to bolster the starting rotation.
"I'm sure there will be discussion about Johnson," Trembley said. "But I think you've seen the importance of what he did as an eighth-inning guy. So until you can get somebody better than Jim Johnson in that role, I think you leave him where he's at."