Davis is confident that return is near Says he may be back as soon as 1 1/2 weeks

July 12, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Glenn Davis finally can see the end of the long and winding road that leads back to the Baltimore Orioles lineup.

He can't quite gauge the distance yet, but he seems confident that the timing of his return from the disabled list can be measured in weeks instead of months.

"It could be as little as 1 1/2 weeks or as many as three or four weeks or longer," Davis said yesterday, "but yes, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Davis took batting practice yesterday for the second day in a row. He took 30 swings and even sent a ball into the bleachers at the roomy Oakland Coliseum. This is what he has been working toward since he went on the disabled list in late April with a damaged spinal accessory nerve in his neck.

"I think I've overcome a lot of obstacles," he said. "This is something to be really happy about. It has been a lot of hard work. Every day I get up, I thank God that I am where I am."

He is in Oakland to take part in daily workouts with the team, which is -- in itself -- a major step toward returning to action.

"One of the reasons I'm with the ballclub is because I am going to do my work here every day," Davis said. "I've said before, when I'm back on the field, that will mean that I'm getting close."

He has spent months at Baltimore's Bennett Institute, working to regain strength in a right shoulder that was severely weakened by the nerve injury. It could be several more months before he regains 100 percent of the strength and muscle mass, but apparently will be able to play before then.

"I've regained a significant amount of strength," Davis said. "I don't know if there is any way of measuring that right now. When I go back and play, I probably still won't be at full strength as far as the capacity of the muscle. It may be Christmas before I get enough size back in the area to have the normal amount of strength."

Davis has been examined by neurologists, orthopedists and back specialists across the nation, and all of them have told him that there is little chance or a recurrence of the nerve damage, which apparently occurred during at-bat early in spring training.

The day the Orioles announced the results of Davis' first neurological examination, club officials speculated that he might limited to designated hitter duty when he first returns to the Orioles lineup. But Davis said yesterday that he has been throwing well and does not expect to be handicapped in any way when he returns.

"I'm not doing all this work to be a part-time player," he said. "I've gotten to the point where I can answer all of the questions as far as being able to play again."

Except the when question. The doctors and therapists attending Davis' rehabilitation have taken a very conservative approach to the injury, which is considered extremely rare among athletes.

That's why he went on a three-city medical fact-finding tour in May. That's why he was reprimanded when the Orioles medical staff caught him throwing overhand early in the rehab program.

"You have to understand," Davis said. "The trapezius is not as strong as it used to be. I have what you'd call a muscle imbalance, so they want to make sure that I don't blow out my rotator cuff.

"But a lot of stuff I've been doing, I've had to go on my own judgment. There's a lot of give and take -- a lot of communication involved."

His rehabilitation apparently has moved into the stretch run. He was on the field yesterday, first for batting practice, then taking ground balls and making the 100-foot throw back to coach Elrod Hendricks.

"Before, I was focused on solving the problem of getting the strength back and getting the trapezius working again," Davis said. "Now, the reason I'm here with the ballclub is because I'm getting close and I want to get close to my teammates. I want to get back to the point where I feel like I'm part of the club, so I can step right back in."

Orioles in 1990

In the Orioles' 81st game last season, they defeated the White Sox, 4-1. Here's where the Orioles stood:

Record.. .Position .. GB

( 36-45 .. .. 5 .. .. .10


Orioles tonight

Site: Oakland (Calif.) Coliseum

Time: 10:35

Orioles starter: Ben McDonald (3-3, 6.00)

Athletics starter: Bob Welch (8-5, 3.98)

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)

TV: Channels 2, 20

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