O's won't stick necks out on Davis Birds deny cover-up as they wait patiently

April 29, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

Because they were unaware of the potential seriousness of PTC the injury to Glenn Davis, the Orioles say they haven't even thought about the possible long-range ramifications.

General manager Roland Hemond and manager Frank Robinson insist there was no attempt to cover up the neck injury that put Davis on the 15-day disabled list and could possibly sideline him for the rest of the season.

When Davis was kept out of the starting lineup twice last week in Chicago, the official explanation was that he had a slightly strained hamstring muscle. But it's now obvious that the neck injury he suffered early in spring training was a contributing factor.

The startling swiftness with which Davis was placed on the disabled list, along with the news that surgery was one of the options being discussed, raised a couple of questions over the weekend.

Were the Orioles aware of the seriousness of Davis' injury?

And, if the slugging first baseman misses a considerable portion of the season, what is the long-term effect on him and the Orioles?

At this point, nobody in the organization even wants to consider the second question. "He's not even finished getting his examinations," said Robinson. "I'm not going to commit to that [the long range] until we get the final results.

"We can't be thinking about that, whether it be two weeks, a month, six weeks," Robinson said. "The way I look at it, we just have to step up and go on thinking the guy will be back in a short period of time.

"I'm going to wait until all the examinations are in. I'm hoping he gets a favorable diagnosis and that we'll have him back soon."

Davis is scheduled for a second examination today in New York, and it's possible he'll see two other doctors before a final decision is made. He was diagnosed last Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital as having a damaged spinal accessory nerve, causing weakness in the trapezius muscle in his right shoulder.

That examination wasn't announced until he was put on the disabled list Friday, a move that hadn't even been hinted at, which led to some suspicion club officials knew more than they were letting on. But it was only Davis who didn't want to draw attention to the injury until it could no longer be avoided.

"The fact that he was swinging the bat so good was encouraging enough to think it was something that might go away in a couple of days," said Hemond. "You're thinking that a few days off, and getting out of the cold weather [in Chicago] would be enough.

"You're thinking it could just be like a pain in the neck, and it will go away. The fact that he was able to swing effectively is what makes it catch everyone by surprise."

Robinson reiterated that the reason Davis was not in the lineup in Chicago was because of the hamstring injury. "I knew it [the neck] was bothering him, and sometimes when the adrenalin gets flowing you can put it out of your mind until you swing and miss," said the manager. "I appreciate what he tried to do."

The loss of Davis once again would seem to put an added burden on Cal Ripken. "I'm going to try not to think that way," Ripken said. He and Robinson both said it would require more than one man to pick up the slack.

"We all have confidence we can score," said Ripken. "Having him behind me made me relax, and I think it made the club relax also. But our offense is greatly improved anyway. Dewey [Dwight] Evans is a great clutch hitter; he's very patient. It makes me feel better that he's behind me, too.

"Right now, because of the rarity of the injury, there's not much to say," Ripken said. "We have to remain optimistic and hope he'll be back soon and that everything will be OK."

Ripken is off to one of the best starts of his career, leading the American League with 20 runs batted in, and there is the natural assumption that the burden will fall on him. That, Robinson said, would be the worst case scenario.

"What I hope, No. 1, is that Cal realizes he can't do it all himself," said Robinson. "He's in a good groove right now. I hope he doesn't allow pitchers -- if they're going to fool around with him -- to get him out of that groove.

"If they don't want to give him strikes, then he's going to have to drop his bat and go to first base and let the next guy do his job," said Robinson.

Ripken drove in four runs and scored the other in the Orioles' 5-4 win over Milwaukee yesterday. The night before he hit his fifth home run. Those figures equate to a blistering start, one of the best of his career.

"Usually, it's the reverse -- when I'm swinging well there's nobody on base," said Ripken. "Now I'm coming up with men on base. They're out there while I'm swinging the bat real well."

Scoring runs, even with Ripken hot and Davis (four home runs, eight RBIs in 12 games) in the lineup, has been an unexpected problem for the Orioles. "I thought that would be the least of our worries when the season started," said Robinson.

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