Atkins' first start draws rave reviews

Atkins' first start draws rave reviews

Atkins' first start draws rave reviews
ARLINGTON -- It was impressive enough that Orioles pitcher Mitch Atkins tossed six innings of one-run baseball in his first career Major League start. That he did it against the defending American League champion Rangers in their home ballpark earned Atkins praise from both clubhouses Tuesday night, and it left the Orioles side still buzzing Wednesday afternoon.

"I thought he handled himself well from an emotional standpoint," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Atkins, who exited with the lead before Baltimore's bullpen coughed it up in a 4-2 loss.

"We will take it as a real positive," Showalter said. "I hope it turns out to be that. This guy is only 25 years old, he's younger than some of the guys that we have here that we are hoping are going to be long-term solutions."

Signed as Minor League free agent, Atkins was sidelined all spring with a left oblique strain and steadily worked his way through the Orioles' affiliates before Tuesday's promotion. He said he relieved about 20 text messages after his start and acknowledged it's been a whirlwind the last few days, as well as extremely gratifying to finally show the organization what he can do.

"It's an awesome feeling," Atkins said of rebounding from a disastrous start to the season. "It was the first time I had been hurt and it was probably the longest I had been on the DL, and so it was a little change of pace for me. It probably made me a better all-around player, just having that experience."

While the Orioles haven't set their rotation for this weekend, Showalter acknowledged that Atkins made a strong case and is a front-runner to start Sunday's game at Boston's Fenway Park. The Orioles will call on Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton, respectively, for the first two contests in the four-game set.