Orioles looking ahead, not back, concerning Davis

August 21, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Don't even think about asking "what if?"

Forget that Glenn Davis, in his second game back from a rehabilitation assignment, tied a career-high by driving in five runs as the Orioles beat Texas 8-6 last night.

Forget, too, that the slugging first baseman has five home runs and 13 RBIs in only 14 games (48 at-bats) this season.

And, for a moment at least, forget that Davis is the guy who was going to team with Cal Ripken to anchor the Orioles' lineup this year.

Trying to figure out what might have been is an exercise in futility. "Every once in a while I think about it for about a second," admitted manager John Oates. "But then I put it out of my mind.

"That time is gone and there's nothing you can do about it," said Oates, preferring to reflect on the present.

"All I know is that two National League people whom I respect very much told me last spring 'John, this guy can strap a club on his shoulders and carry it for a long period of time.' "

All of those plans the Orioles had for Davis were scuttled when he went down with a serious neck and shoulder injury four months ago. What the Orioles have done in between is a matter of record.

What they might have done is a matter of conjecture.

"No, I don't think about it," said Davis, whose two-run double in the first inning and three-run homer in the fifth enabled the Orioles to build a 3-0 lead and then wipe out a 6-3 deficit. "There are other things that are bigger than that.

"Just getting back to playing again is what's important. The fact that I'm able to play weighs more than anything else right now."

Not that Davis is oblivious to what he could be to the Orioles. "I don't dwell in the past," he said, "and I don't get too far out into the future. What I want to do is help this club finish on a positive note, to win as many games as possible and get people thinking about next year.

"I think we all have to be thinking like that. If you can't win it, then finish as high as you can. It would be good for us to finish on an upbeat note. You don't want to go out with bad memories."

Certainly the Orioles have enough bad memories already to last through the offseason. A positive or upbeat finish would include all the encouragement Davis can give them, including the possibility that he'll be back next year.

"Other than helping the club win as many games as possible, the second thing for me is to show people I can play, that I can perform to my capability at this level."

From that standpoint, one seemingly routine play in the fifth inning, just after his home run, may have done as much to signal Davis' return. He fielded a ground ball by Kevin Reimer and, without hesitation or trepidation, automatically threw to shortstop Cal Ripken to start a 3-6-3 double play.

It was a play a major-league first baseman is expected to make, which is how Davis treated it. But four months ago, when he was struggling with an injury that had yet to be completely diagnosed, it was throwing a baseball that gave Davis the most trouble -- and the first clue that he was not 100 percent physically.

"That was something I had to find out," said Davis. "I had to find out if I could play first base, if I could throw and if I could throw accurately.

"That's something teams, knowing my situation, are going to want to know -- if I've overcome this injury enough to play the position."

Davis was quick to point out he wasn't referring to his status as a potential free agent at the end of the year. "Everybody knows my situation," he said, "and that I can be a free agent at the end of the year. But it has nothing to do with the contract situation.

"This team [the Orioles] will want to know if I can throw and throw accurately enough to play first base."

There was some doubt four months ago that Davis would play any more this year, and he admits to occasionally wondering if he would ever play again. His lengthy and strenuous rehabilitation program was charted daily.

"Each step was a test," he said. "When I passed one, I moved on to another."

For the last month Davis has been taking batting practice, fielding ground balls and throwing. He spent one week with the Double A Hagerstown Suns to work on his timing and then pronounced himself ready.

"I had no qualms about writing his name into the lineup," said Oates. "He said he was ready. That was good enough for me."

In two games since his return, Davis has gone 3-for-7, with a single, double and home run -- in that order. "You see the ball come off his bat like that home run did and you realize what he can do," said Oates.

Davis, who had 144 home runs in his last five seasons in Houston, admitted he hardly expected such a splash in his second game back. "I didn't expect that big a night," he said. "I was just looking to get a couple of hits, do some things to help win a game."

What did the game mean to him?

"It's good for me -- good for my confidence," said Davis. "It lets me know I'm not lacking in the power area. It's something to hang on to."

For the Orioles, hopefully, last night provided a glimpse of what can be expected. The focus is on the next six weeks -- not the last four months.

While the Orioles try out a rotation that includes five starters under the age of 26, they will also be watching a 30-year-old proven slugger with an eye to the future.

And trying hard not to ask the obvious "what if?"

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