First baseman Glenn Davis spent his entire professional career with the Houston Astros organization, but the prospect of switching teams -- and switching leagues -- doesn't seem to bother him a bit.
"I'm really glad to be part of an organization that wants me to be there," said Davis, who was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles in a four-player deal that was announced yesterday. "I'm looking forward to helping the Baltimore Orioles get back to being the No. 1 team in their division."
Davis, speaking during a conference call from his home in the Houston area, said all the right things -- the things that every new player says about his new team. But there was one important difference -- he has the numbers to back up the words. Davis is one of the most dangerous power hitters in baseball.
He hit 22 home runs in little more than a half-season last year, overcoming a rib-cage injury to drive in 64 runs in just 327 at-bats. In the four full seasons leading up to 1990, Davis averaged 31 home runs and 96 RBI.
"This young man is a proven power hitter," said manager Frank Robinson. "What he's proven is that he can put up numbers even in a tough hitter's ballpark like the Astrodome. I'm very happy to have him. We are a much better offensive ballclub than we were at the end of the 1990 season.
"I said at the end of last season that for us to have a competitive ballclub, we have to add two quality offensive players. I feel we did that with Glenn Davis and Dwight Evans."
The Astros didn't do too badly either. The Orioles sent them right-handed starter Pete Harnisch, right-handed reliever Curt Schilling and outfielder Steve Finley, all solid young prospects that figure to fit right into a Houston rebuilding project that no longer had room for Davis and his multimillion-dollar salary.
Davis was headed for arbitration and a 1991 payday that figured to run close to $2.5 million. He is one year away from free-agent eligibility, which means the sticker price will be going up in the near future. The Astros, who aren't expected to be a contender this year, apparently wanted to get something for Davis while the getting was good.
The Orioles inherited his arbitration case, which will be heard in less than a month if no compromise is reached on a 1991 salary. Club president Larry Lucchino said that the team would set right to work on getting Davis' contract settled for 1991 and beyond.
Lucchino confirmed that the club did not talk contract with Davis before the deal was completed, so all the ramifications of the trade might not be known until next winter. If the Orioles fail to sign him to a multiyear contract between now and next November, they will risk giving up three solid prospects for just one year of Davis' services and a 1992 compensation draft choice.
But even that might be an acceptable exchange if the addition of Davis makes the difference between fifth place and a division title in 1991.
"That's what baseball is all about," Davis said. "I want to be on a contender and a ballclub that's going to win. I know the Baltimore Orioles have some great players. I'm hoping to be a part of building that club. It's nice starting over with an organization that is moving upwards."
The contract situation "will work itself out," he said. Davis seems more interested in getting back into top playing shape after a season in which he missed nearly two months with the muscle tear in his rib cage.
"I'm just excited that an organization thought enough of me to want me to be a part of it," he said. "Baltimore was the first team that drafted me out of high school, and I believe my father played in the Orioles organization. It was the first team I put a uniform on with. I went to Bluefield [the Orioles' rookie-league team] and had to decide between the Orioles and college. I went to college, but it's kind of ironic that I ended up back here."
His ties to the Orioles organization don't end there. Davis is a half-brother of Kansas City Royals pitcher Storm Davis, who began his career in Baltimore.
"I talked with Storm about his time in Baltimore, and he had only good things to say about it," Davis said.
Memorial Stadium figures to be far more hospitable for a right-handed power hitter than the spacious Astrodome. Davis hit four of his 22 home runs at home last year, but had 18 and drove in 42 runs in just 43 games on the road.
"To tell you the truth, I don't really know a lot about the American League and American League ballparks," he said. "That includes Baltimore. But from talking to other players, I've heard it's a good hitter's park. It's a new challenge for me, and I'm looking forward to it."
The July 27 rib-cage tear apparently is just a bad memory now. It kept him out of action for most of the second half, but did not keep him from turning in a club-record sixth straight season with 20 or more homers.
"I think the rib-cage injury was a little blown out of proportion," Davis said. "It was the first injury I ever had in my career. It was the first time I ever missed more than three days in a row.
"It was a little muscle pull, and some flesh had pulled away from the rib. Medical experts will tell you that it was just something that takes time. The Astros rushed me a little, but I did, too. I'm a gamer. I wanted to get back out there. The last few weeks of the season, I felt like a normal human being again."