DH appearance pleases Milligan and Robinson

March 16, 1991|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Correspondent

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The return was modest, a "B" game before the feature at Lee County Sports Complex and no time in the outfield, where he has played only two innings all spring.

The great conversion of Randy Milligan to left field is barely under way.

But the erstwhile Baltimore Orioles first baseman was in good spirits yesterday after hitting a first-inning sacrifice fly in a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

"It went well for the first day out, felt good to go nine, start nine and finish nine," said Milligan, who grounded out in his other three at-bats. "Not to have any K's [strikeouts] is something positive.

"The ankle is pretty much jammed. It's just a matter of getting the soreness out."

Milligan sprained his ankle in the opening exhibition game, when he tried to avoid running into Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas.

The delay in getting Milligan acclimated to a position doesn't appear to be a big concern of manager Frank Robinson's.

"He's swang the bat very well," Robinson said. "To me, that's more important than the outfield. We've still got time to get him out there."

Milligan's schedule will probably include another start as designated hitter in today's "B" game against the Texas Rangers, then an "A" game appearance at DH tomorrow against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Robinson said he will keep Milligan out defensively until he's sure the injury isn't affecting his mobility.

"This is hurting me more offensively than it is on defense," Milligan said. "The biggest adjustment on defense will be mentally telling myself to relax and have it come naturally.

"It's just like moving to a different town or strange territory. You've got to find out where everything is."

Milligan played outfield for a couple of innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988. "But we were getting blown out, 15-2," he said. "I don't think you call that playing the outfield. It was more like a sub-out."

He dabbled in the outfield at various stops in the minors.

"Honestly, I would rather not be out there," he said. "Now, I've got two things to worry about [offense and defense], instead of one. But if it's going to help the team, I'll go."

Glenn Davis, the Orioles' highest-paid player, prefers to be at first base, so Milligan has to move to get playing time. At first, Milligan thought Davis would try playing left, but learned otherwise the first day of spring training.

"I'm not going to let playing left field affect my hitting in any way," Milligan said. "If I mess up out there, I mess up. I didn't ask for this, and it's not my natural position, so I can't promise a Gold Glove.

"I can't let it affect me to the point where I'm thinking about it all the time. You can't bring defensive mistakes up to home plate. It's not going to work. Anyway, it's the offensive numbers that get you the big contract."

Milligan said he feels better about his arm strength in the outfield than he did originally. He has to stretch his arm for longer throws and will work on the mechanics.

"A lot of times in the infield you throw from the side," he said. "I've got to train my mind to go over the top.

"My whole big thing is I don't want to hurt the team defensively," Milligan said. "If I'm going to be a butcher, it's nonsense putting me out there."

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