Dwight Evans freely admits this isn't the way he planned it. After 19 seasons in Boston, the veteran outfielder thought he would be among the vanishing breed of baseball players who spend an entire career with one organization.
So, if he wasn't shocked he was certainly disappointed when the Red Sox didn't pick up the option for his 20th major-league season. "It was very much a surprise to me," Evans admitted yesterday while being introduced to the media as the Orioles' latest acquisition.
"I'm a businessman, so I understand that decisions have to be made," said Evans. "But having been there that long, yes it hurt."
The Red Sox were unwilling to gamble on a back problem that limited Evans to a designated hitter's role last year -- while the Orioles are hoping he can play rightfield at least on a limited basis.
Evans, 39, said he was ready to play the outfield at the end of last season, and has no desire to be classified strictly as a DH. "To be successful as a DH I think you have to have a feel for the game," he said. "And you can't get that unless you play in the field."
Asked if he could still be an everyday player, Evans responded with a question of his own: "What do you consider an everyday player?" he asked. "I consider Cal Ripken an everyday player."
When 140 games was suggested as a qualifying number, Evans said, "Yes, I definitely feel I'm capable of doing that. I don't know about that many in the field, but overall I think that's a possibility."
Evans played 123 games last year, 146 the year before, and said his back is better now than it was at any time last season. "It was much better at the end of last season [he hit .306 in 24 games after Aug. 5]," he said. "I could've played in the outfield, but after we got Tom Brunansky, there wasn't any need for me out there."
Orioles manager Frank Robinson indicated he'd like to see Evans play "40 to 50" games in the outfield. "But those were just numbers that we kicked around," said Evans. "I feel like I can play more than that."
An eight-time Gold Glove winner (only Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Al Kaline have won more among outfielders), Evans admitted that not playing in the field affected him last year. "I never was comfortable just being a DH," he said. "The year before I was successful at it, but I think that was because I had been playing. I think it's very important to get the feel for the game that you can only get by playing a position."
As far as moving into the Orioles' clubhouse as a leader, Evans says he won't try to project himself into that role. "You lead by example," he said. "Every club has four or five guys who are looked upon as leaders."
Nevertheless, the fact Evans has enjoyed a career that will warrant Hall of Fame consideration is one of the reasons he appealed to the Orioles. And the Orioles' "family-style" reputation is one of the reasons Baltimore appealed to Evans.
"Mike Boddicker spoke very highly of the team and the area," said Evans, whose wife Susan grew up in the Middle River area. "It's a young team with talented players and I'm looking forward to playing here."
He doesn't necessarily consider this a one-year extension of his career. "I'll keep playing as long as I can contribute," said Evans, who indicated the Orioles' new stadium appears suited to his offensive style.
But for now, it is one year at a time.
There is nothing new to report on the status of Mickey Tettleton. The free-agent catcher has until a week from tomorrow to accept the Orioles' offer of arbitration, and at this point that appears to be the likeliest scenario.
"There are some possibilities out there," said Tony Attanasio, who represents Tettleton. "We have a week and a half to look at the whole procedure and then make a decision.
"The fact is, if the situation is not appealing to Mickey, notwithstanding the money, there is a strong possibility he'll return to Baltimore."
Attanasio reiterated that a decision will be made by the arbitration deadline. If Tettleton accepts arbitration, then he retains his right to explore free agency again next year -- while also possibly trying to negotiate a multi-year contract with the Orioles.
Cecil Fielder, the first American League player to hit 50 home runs since 1961, will receive the Babe Ruth Crown at the 38th annual "Tops In Sports" banquet Jan. 11.
In addition to hitting 51 homers, Fielder also led the majors with 132 runs batted in and 339 total bases. Fielder is the 36th recipient of the award, with 11 of the previous honorees enshrined in the Hall of Fame.