Davis' injury puts Orioles up to their necks in worries

MIKE LITTWIN

April 29, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

The news is so potentially devastating that it is broached only in whispers.

"What do you hear?" asks a player in the Orioles clubhouse.

You shrug.

No one knows anything, you say.

And that's the truth. The only thing you know for sure is that, even though no names are mentioned, you're both talking about Glenn Davis.

What else? Whether John Sununu is sending his personal jet to pick up the queen?

To this point, most of the talk is so much medical mumbo jumbo about a spinal accessory nerve in Davis' neck's causing weakness in the trapezius muscle in his right shoulder. You don't know what it means, but you know enough to understand that it's scary.

It might mean he needs surgery. It might even mean he could be out for the season. If so, given that Davis' contract ends this year, he could be done forever as an Oriole.

The prospect is staggering to consider. Could the Orioles have given up Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling and Steve Finley for four Davis home runs?

Even after the Orioles' comeback win yesterday, framed by a great performance from Bob Milacki and another poor one from Ben McDonald, the overriding concern in the clubhouse was the man who wasn't there.

"A whole year, man," said Randy Milligan, who had moved to left field to accommodate Davis. "You can't think that way. He was just getting into his groove, too. Just starting to show what he could really do.

"We just thought it was a stiff neck, from sleeping wrong or something. I mean, he was hitting home runs. The really shocking thing would be if he's out for the season."

There are a couple of theories current on the subject of worrying. One has it that you shouldn't worry about things you can't control. The other holds that worrying is the only response you can reasonably make to what you can't control.

The Orioles don't know if they can do anything or not, but they are plenty worried, and they are trying.

Today, Davis begins what we might call his X-rays-across-America tour. He's going to see doctors in New York, whereupon he may or may not return to Baltimore. It is more likely that he'll visit a number of doctors in a number of cities and gather second, third, fourth and more opinions.

This won't necessarily make life easier. If you visit six doctors, it is not unusual to obtain a minimum of six opinions.

Frank Robinson remembers back to 1955, when a bad shoulder sent him on his own mini-tour of the medical profession.

"I went to 12 doctors, and I must have gotten 12 different opinions," Robinson said. "I had the whole range. One doctor told me if I didn't have surgery on my shoulder I'd never throw again, and another doctor told me it was all in my head."

Robinson chose to rest the shoulder, and eventually it got well. Davis may have that option. Or the injury may require only minor surgery, which could bring him back in plenty of time to make an impact on the season. It's much too early to tell, but it's not too early to worry.

When Robinson was asked what he would have thought about his team's chances on Opening Day if he knew he wouldn't have Davis, he tried for a smile and offered this: "I'd still be thinking."

In the best-case scenario, Davis was supposed to provide 30 homers, 100 RBI and a generally intimidating presence in the middle of the lineup that would turn the Orioles back into legitimate contenders. That's why they gave up the players and why they paid him all that money. It wasn't only for his pleasing personality.

"Personally, it was a great feeling to have his bat in the lineup," said Cal Ripken, who is hitting the ball with the old authority. "It made me relax. I think it made the whole ballclub relax.

"I think our lineup is improved over last year even without him. But it's greatly improved with Glenn in there. Let's put it this way: I'd rather have him in the lineup. It makes such a difference when you have guys like him and Eddie Murray."

Murray is, of course, of another Baltimore era. The question now is whether there will be a Davis era.

The issue of whether the Orioles were going to make a serious (by which I mean successful) attempt to keep Davis has always been problematic. No one can tell what is in owner Eli Jacobs' mind on this or other related topics, and he certainly isn't telling.

Would it put more pressure on the Orioles to re-sign Davis if it meant they had given up so much to get only a part of a season -- and perhaps a minuscule part, at that -- in return? And if his playing time is severely reduced by injury, wouldn't that keep his salary down, if you consider the $3.275 million he's making now spread over a number of years a salary you can live with.

That's for another day. For today, it is a worried Davis visiting doctors and the worried Orioles waiting to hear the news.

Nothing much is riding on it, except maybe an entire season.

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