BOSTON -- Danny Valencia's combined OPS during 44 games with the Twins and Red Sox in 2012 was .497. In 40 games with the Orioles this season, it's .988.
"Night and day," Valencia described the two seasons.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday it hasn't been easy writing Valencia's name at designated hitter in the lineup each day, with all the options he has available on the bench, but Valencia has been too good to take out.
A year ago, he sat in the Red Sox dugout during the late parts of the season and hoped something would change. Valencia had been on two losing teams and his performance wasn't helping much.
"I didn't get off to a great start," he said. "I was on two losing teams and the atmospheres on those teams weren't too great. Looking back at it now, I felt I learned. At the time I didn't learn, I was like, 'What am I learning about all this? This stinks.' But I learned how to deal with failure.
"I know that this game has lots of ups and downs, and there are more downs than there are ups. You have to ride the wave and try to be as consistent as possible."
Valencia was due up to lead off the ninth inning of a tie game against the Red Sox on Tuesday night. On the mound was Koji Uehara, who had retired 37 consecutive batters. Last year in this spot, he figures, he had no chance.
But on this team, he feels different. He didn't want to let his teammates down.
Valencia smoked a triple to deep center and the Orioles won, 3-2.
"Last year, I was hoping for things for happen," he said. "This year, I feel like I'm putting myself into position for things to happen, which is nice. There's been a lot of hard work that people don't see that goes on behind closed doors that goes into my success at this point. It's really helped me a lot.
"I think I had a good year. I think I proved I can hit up here. It's just been a good season so far. I'm happy where I'm at."
Norris being careful, Gonzalez improving
BOSTON -- Bud Norris is in a tough spot, trying to push his sore pitching elbow as far as possible so that he could start Saturday's all-important game against the Rays, while also trying to protect himself from a long-term injury.
Norris is under team control through 2015, so the Orioles have to be equally as careful with the right-hander, who was acquired from the Astros on July 31.
The 28-year-old felt good after a bullpen session Tuesday and was scheduled to play catch on the field at Fenway Park on Wednesday, but he was still unsure if he could start Saturday.
"It's a hard one to toy with, especially this late in the year and how I've been feeling, but I came over for a reason," said Norris, who has a 4.67 ERA in nine starts with the O's. "I want to pitch and be on the field. … That's what I've been dreaming of doing for four years in the big leagues, make a postseason run. But I have to take it day-by-day and be smart about it for the long-term reasons and short-term reasons, too."
The good news is that Miguel Gonzalez reported feeling better than expected on Wednesday. The Orioles originally penciled him to miss one start due to a right groin strain, but there's a chance he could take the ball for Saturday's game if Norris can't.
"That was encouraging; I didn't expect that," manager Buck Showalter said. "We'll leave him alone again today and make a decision tomorrow on Saturday, whether it will be Miggy, Bud or someone else. I think tomorrow we'll have all the information that we need."
Showalter excited to have O'Day back in bullpen
BOSTON -- Buck Showalter made sure a locker was cleared for right-hander Darren O'Day on Wednesday. The manager seemed pretty excited to have his setup man back.
O'Day, who has pitched just twice this month due to tingling and numbness in the fingers of his pitching hand, was due to return to the team before Wednesday's game against the Red Sox. Showalter expected him to be available.
"We wouldn't bring him if we didn't think he was an option for us," Showalter said. "Today he feels good, good enough to pitch. He's coming. It's pretty simple this time of year, yes or no."
O'Day has posted his second consecutive impressive season, posting an identical 2.28 ERA while striking out nearly a batter per inning. And if the rest of this series is as close as Tuesday's 3-2 win, O'Day could certainly be needed.
Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz combined to pitch the eighth inning of Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Red Sox.