Orioles count on Evans to step up to bat as leader

December 11, 1990|By Kent Baker

Dwight Evans has no intention of walking into the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse and trying to establish himself as an instant leader.

But, while Evans was being introduced to the local media at a Memorial Stadium news conference yesterday, first baseman Randy Milligan said Evans' presence may make a substantial impact on the young Orioles.

"I think one of the big things he'll bring us is leadership," Milligan said. "From what I've heard, if you're not playing up to expectations, he lets you know it.

"Last year, we lacked that quality. We played hard, but there were a lot of little things that hurt us, going through the motions at times. Dwight will come up to a player and get on him to put his mind were it needs to be -- on the game."

Evans, 39, is in the twilight of a glorious career, all with Boston until the Red Sox decided not to exercise the option on his contract.

Back trouble has prevented him from playing the outfield since August 1989, but the Orioles signed him as a free agent to a non-guaranteed contract that could bring him $1.3 million if he attains all the incentive goals in the deal.

"The worst thing I could do is step in and say, 'This is the way things are going to be,' " Evans said. "It's not a question of wanting to be a leader, moving guys and telling them what to do.

"What you do is quality-type things; pat a guy on the back when he's gone 0-for-4 in the same game in which you've gone 0-for-4, forget about yourself. Don't just go up to a guy when he gets the winning hit.

"Right now, you can't really measure what I can do [in the clubhouse]. I don't know the makeup of the team. But I'll do what I can to steer them in the right direction, and sometimes they might not like what I say."

General manager Roland Hemond said Evans "will be inspiring to his teammates. Certain players are consummate pros, gamers, and I think he also typifies an Oriole-type player. I'm thrilled he chose our club."

Evans said he was "hurt" to leave the Red Sox, but was attracted to Baltimore by the Orioles' interest, the fans, the stadium and the team's potential. "They pressed me harder than other clubs and said the right things," he said. "They really pushed for two years [in the contract], but I felt going one year at a time was the right thing."

He said he plans to play "as long as I can help," and said his back has not been a problem since a bone spur inside the pelvis has bridged itself inward and the rough edge has been removed from the spur.

One of the most gifted right fielders of all time, Evans envisions playing 40 to 50 games in right field and 140 overall. His arm, he said, "is like facing Nolan Ryan. He may not throw as hard as he used to, but he's sill better than everybody else."

Evans has a .255 lifetime batting average at Memorial Stadium, where he said he likes the background for hitters, but has batted .291 with nine home runs in his past 57 games here. He doesn't mind any placement in the batting order "as long as it's not 10th," he said.

"It was very much a surprise what the Red Sox did after I had stayed there that long [17-plus seasons]. I just felt I could have had a choice to say where I wanted to go, but it wasn't the case. It hurt.

"Now they're just another ballclub in our way. I don't think my coming here guarantees a world champion, but I like to think I can help this team get there."

With a game on the line, few are better than Evans. "That man always beats you," said Milligan. "When you look out there and see him at the plate, you know you're in trouble. We need that, and he knows how to do it in a way that doesn't get players all ticked off."

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