Davis ready to step up to plate of high expectations

April 05, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- He has seen the predictions. And he has heard of the expectations. But more than anything else, right now, Glenn Davis knows about the anticipation.

New season. New league. New team. New city.

"I'm looking forward to my new home," said the slugging first baseman many say will help change the image of the Orioles. "Until now my concentration has been geared toward getting ready for the season.

"But once I'm on that plane [to Baltimore], all I'll be looking forward to is Monday. It's going to be a day for me to remember. The adrenalin will be flowing and I'll have to work to try and key down."

Davis said that any apprehension he may have had about his trade from Houston to Baltimore is behind him. "My feelings now are more of anticipation -- not really knowing what it's like.

"This will be more fans than I've ever played before on Opening Day and I'll be anxious to greet them with a good performance. It's going to be exciting. I'm looking forward to taking batting practice there for the first time at Memorial Stadium."

His new home field isn't the only park Davis is looking forward to seeing. He's anxious to experience firsthand the feeling that has caused others to predict monstrous things for the Orioles' new slugger.

"He was the best No. 4 hitter in the National League," said Ray Miller, former pitching coach for the Orioles, manager for the Minnesota Twins and currently the pitching coach at Pittsburgh.

"Playing in Baltimore, instead of the Astrodome, and in the other parks in the American League he'll hit 40, maybe 50 home runs and please quote me on that," said Miller. "The guy killed us -- and we tried to pitch around him every time. The people in Baltimore are going to love him, he plays the game hard, and he's going to help everybody in that lineup."

Chuck Tanner, who managed Pittsburgh and Atlanta in the National League, echoes Miller's sentiments. "He's a great hitter, a legitimate superstar," said Tanner. "When he gets hot, you just hold on and he'll take you along with him. I guarantee you he'll hit 30 to 40 home runs over there."

Baltimorean Ron Hansen, now scouting for the Yankees and a former coach with the Montreal Expos, has watched Davis throughout his National League career. "I think he'll hit 40 [home runs]," said Hansen, "but the big thing he's going to do is get Cal [Ripken] a lot more good pitches to hit. And he [Davis] should benefit too because he'll be hitting in a better lineup."

The lavish predictions, plus the expectations he's created in Baltimore, would seem to have placed an unfair burden on Davis. But he doesn't seem to be affected, and in fact points out that the lineup could help him as much as he helps the Orioles.

"I'm aware of those things [predictions]," said Davis. "For the most part I take them with a grain of salt. I wonder, 'How do they know?'

"But," he admitted, "sometimes I say to myself: 'Can I?' "

While the possibilities intrigue Davis, he tries to keep them in perspective.

"You can't try to go off predictions," he said. "You can't try to do what people say you'll do just to live up to expectations.

"I'm the kind of person where things have to be tangible. I've got to experience the feeling of these other parks. I've never even seen them yet. I saw the California park at the All-Star Game, but that's it.

"The only time I've seen Memorial Stadium was right after the trade -- and it was covered with ice then."

Davis says his approach will be to make his home runs, how ever many there are, count the most. "I've always said I'd rather hit 20 with a couple men on base than hit 50 with the bases empty," he said.

Although he's only played 17 exhibition games with the Orioles, Davis said he's already noticed a difference in how pitchers pitch to him. "This is only spring training, but I should get more pitches to hit," said Davis. "And I've noticed that when I get on base the guys behind me are driving me in or moving me over.

"And that's what I want to do for Cal -- that's how a lineup should work. The way I look at it, before it's all over I'd like people to look at our lineup the way they're looking at some others right now. I've read a lot about the 3-4-5 hitters with the Giants. But with Randy [Milligan], Cal, myself, Dwight [Evans] and Sam Horn we can have a pretty good middle ourselves."

With the preliminaries all but over, Davis finds himself full of anticipation about the coming season. "It's going to be interesting -- a real challenge," said Davis, who appears to have taken to his new team like mustard to a hot dog.

"I have a real good focus," said Davis. "I'm relaxed, I'm comfortable at the plate, I'm healthy. I'm anxious for the season to start."

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