If Davis stays, Segui or Milligan must go

Ken Rosenthal

July 17, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Orioles must trade either David Segui or Randy Milligan if they re-sign Glenn Davis. That obviously is a huge "if," but the club took too many first basemen to spring training this year, and would be foolish to do so again.

Segui knows it, Milligan knows it, and club officials know it too. No matter what propaganda the Orioles espouse in the coming months, their best option is to keep Davis, presuming he's healthy. That would give them another legitimate power hitter, plus the chance to deal for starting pitching.

It doesn't take a genius to play out the rest of the scenario. Segui, a mere rookie, said, "I'm sure if they re-sign Glenn they'll be forced to do something with one of us." Milligan went one step further, predicting he'll be the one traded if Davis remains.

"I can't see both of us being on this team next year," Milligan said.

What if the club deals Segui?

"I see Segui before me."

Because he can play outfield?

"That's right. And he's done a good job."

The Orioles tried to make Milligan a leftfielder at the start of the season, but John Oates announced the end of that experiment the day he became manager. Segui, on the other hand, mostly has played the outfield even with Davis sidelined -- and he's the best first baseman of the three.

At the moment, Segui is hardly playing at all, while two other top prospects, catcher Chris Hoiles and third baseman Leo Gomez, are emerging as regulars. Last night Segui started for only the third time in 10 games, then suffered a mild ankle sprain running out a single in the second inning.

Milligan is the everyday first baseman, and Chito Martinez and Dwight Evans are crowding the outfield picture. That doesn't mean Segui, 25, is forgotten. He's the club's only switch-hitter besides Juan Bell, and he's batting .292 with two homers and 16 RBIs in only 120 at-bats.

As for his current predicament, Segui said, "There's nothing I can do about it. I'm a rookie here. I haven't done anything in the big leagues yet. I have no right to go into the [manager's] office and say I demand to play more. I'm a nobody here.

"I prefer to be ready to play every day and do my best. It's tough to sit and watch. But I think it'll change after this season, one way or another. I'll think I'll be playing somewhere, either here or somewhere else. They have decisions to make."

Many of those decisions revolve around Davis, who is expected back in two to four weeks. The Orioles acquired him with the best intentions, but for such a positive move, it sure created problems. In retrospect, Milligan should have been traded for pitching immediately.

That would have left the unproven Segui at first when Davis suffered his rare neck injury, but what difference would it have made? Milligan got off to a slow start in part because of his confusion over playing left. Meanwhile, the club's main problem remains its lack of quality starting pitching.

Milligan came out of it -- he's now batting .270 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs -- but he's probably correct in assuming that the Orioles can't keep both him and Davis next year. That would not only eliminate the versatile Segui, but designated hitter Sam Horn as well.

Horn has had a breakthrough season, with 14 homers and 37 RBIs in only 190 at-bats. He could remain the lefthanded DH if Davis stayed in Baltimore and returned to first base. But a Davis-Milligan rotation would spell doom for a player who has made "tremendous strides," according to hitting coach Tom McCraw.

So, it's either Milligan or Davis, and Segui comes out a winner both ways. He lacks power and speed, but Oates said he's capable of batting .280-.290 with 10-12 homers and 80-90 RBIs. In addition, he might become a Gold Glove first baseman if the Orioles ever give him the chance.

Segui isn't counting on it. He joined the club's Dominican affiliate with the idea of learning to play the outfield even before the Orioles acquired Davis last winter. But for some reason, Segui said Rochester manager Greg Biagini wouldn't play him anywhere but first, so he left after three weeks.

His education began in earnest last spring, and he has improved to the point where Oates said he's now "adequate" in either left or right. Milligan was clearly unnerved when the Orioles asked him to change positions coming off a 20-homer season. Segui, with no track record, had little choice but to move.

"I can say, 'I don't want to play outfield, I want to play first base.' And they can say, 'Play first base -- play it in Rochester.' I don't have many options. But I don't mind playing the outfield. I'm starting to enjoy it. It helps me. My value increases by being able to play a second position."

Milligan, however, has more value, for most clubs prefer a power hitter at first base. Segui said his agent, Tommy Tanzer, has discussed his situation with Orioles management. Baseball executives claim to relish such problems resulting from too much depth.

The Orioles are in precisely that bind.

If Davis is healthy.

If he returns.

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