SARASOTA, Fla. -- Sam Horn has seen The Warehouse. He's trying not to think about whether he can conquer it.
The subject of discussion on a rainy day in spring training camp was how the dimensions of the new Oriole Park at Camden Yards might affect the powerful lefthanded hitter. Teammate Randy Milligan went on record as saying Horn "will hit 10 more home runs" at the new facility.
Given the fact that Horn hit 23 homers in only 317 at-bats last year, Milligan's prediction would add up to a monster year for his buddy from southern California.
The warehouse that runs behind, and dwarfs, the elevated fence in rightfield is reachable at about 450 feet, but it is also deceiving.
"I've been to the new park, and it[the rightfield fence] definitely looks closer than it actually is [318 feet down the line]," said Horn, who visited the Orioles' new playpen two months ago. "The outfield is deep in left and center -- which is good and bad for me.
"They'll be keeping the ball away from me, so I'll have to work on hitting the ball the other way [to leftfield] and up the middle. But the wall is not something I want to be thinking about. If I hit the ball good, I shouldn't have to worry about it."
Horn prefers to withhold judgment until the new park is tested under game conditions. "We're not really going to know anything about how the ball carries until we take batting practice and play some games," he said. "Then we'll get an idea of what the [wind] currents will be like."
However, the thought of Horn's taking aim at an inviting rightfield target is intriguing -- especially if Milligan is correct in his assumption that the warehouse will keep the wind out.
Horn prefers to block out such thoughts -- at least for now. "I like the park, and I have thought about playing there, but mainly because of the electricity I think will be there on Opening Day," he said. "I think it's going to spark even more enthusiasm."
Coming off his most productive year (.233 average, 16 doubles and 41 bases on balls to go with his 23 home runs), Horn is a major piece in what figures to be the Orioles' biggest puzzle. Finding enough at-bats for Horn and Milligan could be a thorny situation.
Manager John Oates insisted again yesterday that he was comfortable trying to figure out how his lineup can include Milligan, Horn and Glenn Davis. "Sam will get his at-bats," Oates said. "He deserves the chance, and he'll get it."
Figuring approximately 1,200 at-bats between first base and designated hitter, Davis figures to get 500 if he's healthy. That leaves 700 for Milligan and Horn -- exactly 100 fewer than they had a year ago, when Davis missed most of the season.
"You've got to figure David Segui in there with that group," said Oates, further compounding the picture. A trade still seems the most logical solution, but one Oates won't count on.
"It's safe to say that we have some decisions to make before we leave spring training," said Oates.
If someone is forced out, it doesn't figure to be Segui, who proved last year that he is better than adequate in the outfield and at first base.
Horn figures to be a fixture if for no other reason than the possibility that the new park's dimensions could make him more productive. He is the only player on the team with "warehouse power," a term general manager Roland Hemond coined last year.
Horn makes no secret of the fact he loves the DH slot. "As far as I'm concerned, for a good hitter, it's the best place to be," he
"I don't care about the criticism that I don't have a position. I love being the DH. It's the best thing in the world to be able to come to the park and not have to worry about anything except hitting the ball."
Horn also has had success as a pinch-hitter. "I don't think pinch-hitting is something you ever get used to," he said. "But I think I've been fairly successful at it because I want to play. And if that's the only way I can play -- then I want to do it."
Horn will not speculate on how many at-bats he might get, or how many he would like to get. "I'm not going to say anything to that effect," he said. "I think about how many [I might get], but it's something I don't have any control over, so I can't predict.
"I just want to do whatever it takes, so they can only say, 'he did his job as good as he could with the time that he had.' "
About the only thing he's certain of at this point is that he will face only righthanded pitching. "I'm not saying he can't hit them [lefthanders]," said Oates. "But at this point, there's no reason for him to have to face them."
In the meantime, Oates has to wrestle with the problem of finding enough at-bats to capitalize on the talents of both Horn and Milligan, as well as Segui and Dwight Evans.
But with The Warehouse looming as a huge backdrop for the coming season, it is easy to draw the impression that Sam Horn fits prominently into the Orioles' DH picture.