BALTIMORE (AP) - The Orioles were relentless in their pursuit of Garrett Atkins because they were confident the third baseman could rebound from a surprisingly poor 2009 season.
Atkins can't wait to prove them right.
"They were the first one to call, showed the most interest, were able to provide the most playing time," Atkins said Tuesday after passing his physical and finalizing a $4.5 million, one-year contract. "They obviously had the most confidence in me out of all the teams out there."
The 30-year-old had spent his entire seven-year major league career with the Rockies and became a free agent Dec. 13 after Colorado failed to offer a 2010 contract. Baltimore president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail began wooing Atkins on that same day.
Atkins lost his starting job last season, when he slumped to a .226 average with nine homers and 48 RBIs after hitting .286 with 21 homers and 99 RBIs in 2008. He had a career-high 29 homers and 120 RBIs in 2006, when he was fourth in the NL with a .329 average. He batted .301 with 25 homers and 111 RBIs the following year.
And now, Atkins finds himself in a position to show he can still be a productive major-league hitter.
"No doubt, I have a lot to prove. That's why I'm excited about this opportunity," he said. "I get a chance to get back to playing every day with a really good lineup. I mean, there's not going to be a better opportunity for me to show that I'm back on track."
Atkins get $4 million next year and his deal includes an $8.5 million club option for 2011 with a $500,000 buyout. Atkins can make an additional $500,000 next year: $250,000 each for 550 and 600 plate appearances.
"We are very confident that he's going to be able to get back where he's been in the past," MacPhail said.
Atkins played 89 games at first base over the past two seasons. Longtime third baseman Melvin Mora is a free agent, and the Orioles traded first baseman Aubrey Huff to Detroit in August.
"Signing Garrett gives us much-needed versatility," MacPhail said. "We really feel that Garrett is a good fit for us."
Atkins, in turn, believes Baltimore is the right place for him.
"It's just a great opportunity here," he said. "Obviously, it's a good place to hit, it's a good baseball city. I'm excited to be a part of that."