BOSTON -- Dwight Evans came home yesterday. He knocked around his house in nearby Lynnfield, Mass., and then returned to Fenway Park for the first time since the Boston Red Sox decided not to exercise the 1991 option on his contract.
Everyone was waiting -- the family, the fans, the former teammates, the media. Evans doesn't seek the spotlight, but he couldn't avoid it last night.
"I'm looking forward to playing," he said, during a late-afternoon news conference called in his honor. "The game is still the same game. The important thing is playing the game."
He played the game at Fenway for 19 seasons, a fixture in right field until a back injury forced him into a full-time designated hitter role in 1990. Evans is a Baltimore Oriole now, because the Red Sox didn't think he could be more than a one-dimensional player.
"If I said that when it happened it didn't hurt, I'd be lying," Evans said. "It hurt, but they wanted to go in another direction, and that's fine with me."
They were wrong about him. He has returned to the outfield, playing full time in right field and playing effectively. He has been hitting well, too, but no one doubted that he could swing the bat. Playing regularly in right field was a different story.
"That's something I really missed doing," Evans said. "I wanted to get back out there. It was very emotional for me in spring training when I did."
Evans started in right field last night, the first time he had played the outfield at Fenway Park since August 1989. Rain delayed the start of the game, but even that could not keep him from returning to right.
He seemed unsure how the fans would react when he took the field, but they were far from ambivalent. He received a two-minute standing ovation and was cheered mightily again when he caught a fly ball to record the first out in the first inning.
When he came to the plate in the top of the second, the sellout crowd was up again. Many fans had brought banners, one of them stretched across an entire row of bleacher seats and read "Dewey Evans, MVP, Most Valuable Person."
The Boston media pressed Evans to compare the Boston baseball environment with that of Baltimore, but he was complimentary of both.
"The other night, after we had lost seven of eight or seven of nine games and were playing terrible baseball, we were winning, 4-2, and the fans gave Roy Smith a standing ovation when he left the game," Evans said. "The fans were up again in the ninth inning, cheering like we were in a pennant race. That showed me it would be an exciting place if we start winning."
But Boston, he said, was still home. His family lives in the area. He always will be remembered as a Boston Red Sox great. He NTC always has had a great relationship with the fans. In that sense, he has not made a clean break.
"No," he said. "I don't know if this analogy fits, but I think if you have children, just because you go away doesn't mean you break your ties with them. I still have friends here and the fans have always backed me."
Third baseman Craig Worthington, who is on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, has told manager John Oates that he will be ready to come off the disabled list as soon as he's eligible, June 5. But Oates said Worthington will have to pass an "explosion test" before he'll be allowed to play.
Oates wants to see him simulate the first step out of the batter's box and his first step away from each base to make sure that he won't re-injure the hamstring the first time he plays.
"You can take a guy out and have him running at 100 percent on an injured hamstring," Oates said, "but you don't know how he'll be when has to react. The trainers ran Evans pretty good before we allowed him to come back [from a strained groin muscle]."
Davis situation still uncertain
The Orioles still can't say when Glenn Davis will be able to return to action, but he apparently has stepped up his rehabilitation program. He'll be evaluated again next week.
"Physically, he's making progress," Oates said. "Mentally, Glenn a basket case. He wants to get back so badly."
The club had to reduce his on-field activities a couple of weeks ago, but Oates indicated that he is back getting some baseball-related exercise.
"He's rehabilitating and conditioning," Oates said. "Whenever it's time for the next test, at that point, they'll be able to tell if it's chronic or acute, whether he did it swinging the bat or it will be there forever."
More medical updates
* Right-hander Dave Johnson threw lightly off the mound yesterday to test his strained groin muscle. He becomes eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list June 1.
* Right-hander Ben McDonald continues to play long toss on alternating days. He had a cortisone shot last week and has reported a significant decrease in elbow soreness.
* Brady Anderson is suffering from a hamstring strain, but he said there was no discrepancy between that and earlier reports that he had a sore knee. "The soreness is right behind the knee," he said, "but the doctor said it's right where the hamstring attaches."
Red Sox to start Gardiner
The Red Sox placed pitcher Dana Kiecker, who was to start tonight, on the 15-day disabled list with a sore right elbow, and called up pitcher Mike Gardiner, who is expected to start tonight.
Gardiner, obtained April 1 from the Seattle Mariners for left-handed reliever Rob Murphy, was 7-1 with a 2.34 ERA with the Class AAA Pawtucket Red Sox.