For the first time in his career, Storm Davis has higher expectations than the ones he's expected to fulfill.
No longer is he haunted by the shadow of Jim Palmer. No longer is he pegged as a future Cy Young Award winner. No longer is he expected to step up and anchor the pitching staff.
The Orioles hope their most recent acquisition can fill in the fourth or fifth spot in a starting rotation that lacks depth and pitch 175 to 200 innings.
"In my mind I know I can do it," said the righthander, whose return to Baltimore resembled a family reunion during a sometimes emotional news conference at Memorial Stadium yesterday.
Storm was preceded at the microphone by first baseman Glenn Davis, who referred to his new teammate as "the brother I never had." The two were high school teammates in Jacksonville, Fla., and were at first bitter rivals who eventually became best friends.
"When we first met in the 10th grade, there was a sense of jealousy," said Glenn. "There was a barrier there, but then we became best of friends. One of my dreams has been fulfilled. I always looked for a close friend in baseball -- and now I don't have to look any more.
"It was baseball that separated us, and now it's baseball that has brought us back together," said Glenn, who lived briefly with Storm's family before embarking on his career.
"As they say, a lot of water has gone under the bridge," Storm said of events since he left Baltimore after the 1986 season. "Hopefully there are a lot of bridges yet to be built.
"To have the opportunity to be able to come back and play with one of your best friends is a great feeling," said Storm. "I hope to take advantage of the situation. I think you'll see a lot of enthusiasm on our part.
"The last time I looked his way [from the pitching mound to first base] we were a lot younger -- but we won a lot of games. Now I'll be able to see him every day."
For the record, Storm faced Glenn twice while he was with San Diego -- hitting him with a pitch ("I'll tell that story after I retire") and walking him. No official at-bats.
"I hope it stays that way," said Storm. "Hopefully we'll be able to close our careers together here in Baltimore."
Burdened by lofty expectations and a team on the decline, Storm was traded to San Diego after going 9-12 with a 3.62 earned run average for the Orioles. He floundered with the Padres, going 2-7 before being traded to Oakland, where he was 36-15 in a little more than two years.
Storm signed with Kansas City as a free agent after the 1989 season, but was 10-19 the last two years and was relegated to the bullpen after Hal McRae became manager early last season. The cycle was completed last week when the Orioles obtained Davis from the Royals in exchange for catcher Bob Melvin.
"I have a lot of respect for setup men now," Storm said of his time in the K.C. bullpen, "but deep down inside I feel I can best help the team as a starter. That's what I prefer."
Davis, who will be 30 Dec. 26, has a 102-81 career record (100-74 in the American League, 54-40 with the Orioles). He went 45-28 in his first four years (95 starts).
At 6 feet 4 and 225 pounds, he burst on the big-league scene in 1982 and was immediately compared to Palmer, his teammate for a little more than two years. "When you come to the big leagues at 20 years of age, you have to mature rapidly," said Storm.
"I didn't know how to react to that [comparisons to Palmer]. I don't know how you can. That's a lot to expect of somebody. Maybe I had to go away to lose that tag."
However, Storm has never tried to hide his feelings about the team or city that he's been away from for five years. "I told Glenn when he came here that this area is a special place," said Storm. "It's hard for me to say what I feel."
He does, however, know he has a better understanding of himself. "I know my strengths and weaknesses better now," he said. "When I was here before -- I think because of my age -- I didn't completely understand that not everybody is going to like you.
"I tended to dwell too much on mistakes -- like why did I throw a certain pitch -- and that sometimes led to prolonged slumps.
"I'm very disappointed that I didn't do what I was asked to do in Kansas City. But I feel I'm capable of doing the job the Orioles expect of me."
Orioles manager John Oates has expectations only that Storm can fill one of the spots in the starting rotation. "Maybe he's not an artificial turf pitcher," Oates said of Davis' problems in Kansas City.
"Sometimes a change of scenery helps. The only thing I can go on is what I've seen -- and he's thrown very well against us in the three years I've been here.
"In the total picture, I think this will have a positive effect on both Storm and Glenn -- and that will be a positive effect for us," said Oates.