Davis return' figures to cloud Milligan's outlook

MIKE LITTWIN

July 26, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

Randy Milligan has spent his life, it seems, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Usually on his head.

This time it's about a size 11 1/2 (est.). It's got cleats on the %J bottom, and it belongs to first baseman Glenn Davis, whom you might remember. He's the guy who sent Randy Milligan, also a first baseman, to the outfield once upon a time, now known as the nightmare weeks.

As experiments go, you'd have to say this one blew up in the lab. The only time the Moose even wants to look in the direction of left field is when he sends a line drive screaming into the corner, and as he rounds first he's thinking -- actually, screaming to himself -- 'Thank God it's not me."

It hasn't been the Moose for a while, which is fine with him.

"One day, Frank [Robinson] told me, 'Moose, you're playing first for the next two weeks,' " Milligan was saying yesterday. "That was three months ago."

In those three months, Davis has been trying to recover from what is officially called a rare nerve injury, and Milligan, called in from exile, has been busy proving he is a legitimate, big-time, big-league first baseman.

Now, Davis is probably coming back in the next few weeks.

Whither Milligan? It's the question the Moose is always asking himself.

"Everyone told me to relax, don't worry, it's OK, you've got a job here," Milligan said. "Still feeling confident about that?"

Well, yes and no.

When Davis comes back -- if he comes back -- it figures to be first as a designated hitter and then as a first baseman, meaning the Moose could become an endangered species, or at best a DH, a position he would share with Sam Horn. Manager John Oates has said Milligan will not play the outfield, much to Milligan's relief. That's the only relief he's feeling.

"I know that when Glenn says he's ready to play first base, he'll be out there," Milligan said. "What can I do about it?"

Nothing. Oh, except worry. Moose is a great worrier. He's a champion worrier. He's an MVP worrier. He's at the very least tied with your mother.

"Hey," he said, smiling, "I've got something to worry about. I don't want to be a right-handed DH. I want to play first base. I feel comfortable there. I've got a home out there. Now, I don't know what's going to happen."

He's not alone there. But there are some interesting possibilities. One is that Davis will recover, the Orioles will re-sign him, and Milligan will be traded for a pitcher. Another is that the Orioles won't re-sign Davis, and Milligan will stay in the lineup, batting fifth, driving in runs and, in his spare time, lighting up the clubhouse with the best smile on the team.

They can't both stay. That much is certain. The lineup isn't big enough for the both of them, one being a Moose.

What's also clear is that Milligan, given a choice, would love to stick around.

"My career didn't start here, but it's where it took off," he said. "I feel at home here. The fans like me. I like them. Baltimore is probably one of the best cities to raise a family in. But management is going to do what they think is best for the team. And who knows how Glenn is thinking? He's going to have a big say in this.

"All I can do is go out each day and play. The rest is up to somebody else."

That's the good news for Milligan, if not necessarily for Orioles fans. You didn't think the Orioles were ever planning to re-sign Davis, did you? And now they've got the perfect excuse for letting him go. Do you give $15 million to a guy who has been injured in consecutive years?

There might actually a better way to go. The Orioles could take $3 million over each of the next three years and give it to a pitcher who can stabilize the staff. How about Mike Moore? They could spend another $3 million to $4 million a year over three or four years to find themselves an outfielder with some pop to stabilize the lineup. The Orioles could have taken a shot last year at George Bell, who's got 18 homers and 62 RBI for the Cubs, but passed. Maybe this year they'll do better.

They've got the money. They've got all the money in the world. They're going into a new stadium with new and improved ticket prices and a probable attendance of 3 million, given any kind of team. Heck, they're going to draw maybe 2 1/2 million fans this year with this kind of team.

Plus, the Orioles don't have to pay Davis his $3.25 million, allowing them to pay Milligan his million-plus -- this is his arbitration year -- next season instead.

There are a million-plus reasons to like Milligan. He went to left when they asked him. He came back to first when they asked him. He began slowly and didn't give up on himself. When he finally began to hit, the Orioles had their one good stretch of the season. If the Orioles do the cheap thing on Davis, the fans will still have the Moose, one of their few productive people in another unproductive season. It could be worse. It could be a lot worse.

5/8

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