Davis intends to fit with Orioles this time Slugger decided on college after being drafted in 1979

February 26, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The uniform fit this time.

Glenn Davis pulled it on and made some minor adjustments, all the while talking about the first time he had dressed out for the Baltimore Orioles.

The first time was 12 years ago, when Davis was a top high school prospect and the Orioles chose him in the 31st round of the 1979 June free-agent draft. He went to the rookie club in Bluefield, W.Va., for a tryout, but the uniform didn't fit very well and -- for the time being -- neither did the Orioles.

"They brought me down for a tryout and I was 17 or 18 years old," Davis said. "They hoped that I would sign and stay there, but at the time, I feltcollege was a better deal. I did the right thing at the time."

The Houston Astros drafted him a couple of years later, and he started his professional career, coincidentally enough, with the club's Gulf Coast League franchise in Sarasota. It's a small world, though you probably wouldn't want to paint it.

"I remember trying that [Orioles] uniform on," Davis said. "That's what I was thinking about last night, and how I had come back to play with this organization. It kind of feels good. It makes you feel like a kid again."

Davis was another early arrival at Twin Lakes Park. He didn't have to report until today and he isn't required to be in uniform until tomorrow, but he joined a growing list of Orioles players who could not wait to get into camp. Outfielder Mike Devereaux also came in yesterday, leaving only a few position players still unaccounted for.

"That's a good sign," Davis said. "I think attitude is important from Day 1. It's good that we're all on the same wavelength. That's going to help us as a team."

Davis is expected to help a great deal all byhimself. The trade that brought him from Houston cost the Orioles three solid young players -- pitchers Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling and outfielder Steve Finley -- but it got them one of the premier power hitters in baseball. He is coming off a 1990 season in which a rib-cage injury held down his offensive production, but his career run-production numbers still speak loudly about the contribution he figures to make in the Baltimore lineup.

The Orioles ranked sixth in theAmerican League in home runs last year, but the club's fifth-place finish in the AL East reflected an inconsistent offense that put pressure on an injury-ridden pitching staff. The arrival of Davis and Dwight Evans, coupled with the return of Randy Milligan from a shoulder injury, should make for a more consistent scoring machine in 1991.

"We have the potential to win and the ability to win," Davis said. "That's what I'm enthused and excited about. I just want to be a part of this team and contribute because this is a great opportunity for all ofus. We're heading in the right direction.

"It seems like this organization is serious about bringing a championship ballclub back to Baltimore, and it is taking the right steps to accomplish that."

Exit Houston, where the Astros have given up on 1991 and begun a long-term rebuilding project. They knew the kind of price he would command in arbitration and, eventually, on the open market. Better to get some young talent for him while the getting was good.

From all indications, the Astrosare in for a long year. Davis suffered enough last year. He didn't want to go through another hopeless season with another hopeless team.

"I had always played on winning ballclubs," he said. "We never had a losing season until last year. In Houston, they had committed themselves to 'We know we're not going to win for a few years.' For me, the type of player I am, you just don't want to be a part of that. This is a new life for me."

That new life probably won't involve playing a new position. Davishas said that he will work out in the outfield if manager Frank Robinson asks him to be more versatile, but teammates Milligan and David Segui are taking fly balls every day in anticipation of Davis playing full time at first base.

Milligan and Segui moved aside without complaint, perhaps reflecting the can-do attitude that Davis feels is the most important ingredient in a successful team.

"Winning really is contagious," he said. "You don't have to have a completely stocked team to win the pennant. Who thought Cincinnati was going to win it last year? How about the Dodgers in 1988? We [the Astros] didn't think they had the team to win it. It just takes the right attitude from Day 1. It's good medicine."

The Orioles have every reason to think Davis can be a cure-all for what ailed them last year. They recently signed him to a one-year, $3.275 million contract that made him the highest-paid player in club history. Yesterday, they gave him a uniform. Now, he said, he just wants to fit in.

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