Club Dead: Resort of last resort, featuring undertow of confusion

Ken Rosenthal

May 20, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

You've heard of Club Med.

Welcome to Club Dead.

David Segui is standing in the corner of the Orioles' clubhouse, and no one knows why. It's 11 a.m. on a Sunday, 2 1/2 hours before game time. "What's he doing here?" the players whisper. "What's going on?"

Confusion reigns, as it has from Day One of this dysfunctional season. This is the team that couldn't decide on a third baseman, put its first baseman in leftfield and took seven weeks to figure out Bob Milacki belonged in the starting rotation.

This is the team that yesterday batted career utility man Jeff

McKnight second, the team that made two errors on the game's first play, the team that lured an enthusiastic crowd of 36,225 to Memorial Stadium and got crushed by California 10-2.

The Orioles gave away seat cushions.

Next they should try blindfolds.

It was only fitting that the pre-game scrambling was more entertaining than the game itself. The Orioles didn't guarantee Segui a roster spot when they summoned him from Triple A. The best they could offer was "Maybe" -- until hearing Dave Johnson's cry for help.

Johnson, he of the 9.23 ERA, was yesterday's unexpected addition to the 15-day disabled list. He didn't injure his groin Saturday night, like outfielder Mike Devereaux and fellow pitcher Mark Williamson. No, his problem surfaced 3 1/2 weeks before. Only he kept it private.

Thus, manager Frank Robinson was "very surprised" to learn of Johnson's condition. The pitcher didn't mention it to the club's trainers until after Saturday's game. Whenever reporters asked,

he insisted he was sound. Even yesterday, he refused to blame the injury for his recent performance.

Most revealing of all, the Orioles didn't even consider Johnson the leading candidate for the 15-day DL. They feared Devereaux suffered the most serious injury, which is why they recalled Segui, a switch-hitter who plays outfield and first base.

Now it turns out they need a reliever to replace Johnson (Todd Frohwirth? Anthony Telford? Roy Smith?). Jeff Ballard lasted only 2 2/3 innings yesterday. Williamson is day-to-day. A nine-man pitching staff isn't the answer for a team with a major-league high 4.69 ERA.

Segui, 24, accompanied the club to Detroit, again with no guarantees. If nothing else, today should be less hectic. Yesterday, he caught a 7 a.m. flight from Toledo, reached the clubhouse by 10:30 and waited two hours for his status to be decided.

First Robinson met with Devereaux, who departed in the third inning of Saturday night's game. Devereaux to the DL? It couldn't be. "Look at him walk," one Oriole said as the hot-hitting centerfielder strolled into Robinson's office. "He's fine."

To everyone's relief, Devereaux assured Robinson he could play in three to four days, and returned to the clubhouse looking slightly amused. Segui was still in limbo at that point. Little did he know Johnson's roster spot was about to become available.

"I've been feeling some twinges off and on, maybe once or twice during the course of warming up since the rain-delay game in Chicago [April 23]," Johnson said. "It's never bothered me during a game. It was a feeling of, 'Once it gets loose, it will be fine.'

"I don't think it was affecting me. But then a couple of days ago [Wednesday and Thursday] I pitched two days in a row. It was the first time I'd done that in years. Maybe that was the last straw. During routine stretching, I noticed it wasn't going away."

Sounds reasonable enough, yet Johnson never said a word until he seemed on the verge of demotion. Whatever, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. After leading the club with 13 wins last season, he couldn't figure out what was wrong. Maybe his injury is the answer. Or maybe he's just buying time.

Either way, Segui is here, perhaps for an extended stay. The Orioles could demote McKnight and his .241 average without much argument. They're groping for answers, grabbing any straw that comes their way. You never know who'll turn up next, here at Club Dead.

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