The Orioles didn't seem to have a care in the world after Rick Sutcliffe opened the regular season with a five-hit shutout on Monday, but reality crept into Oriole Park at Camden Yards yesterday afternoon.
First baseman Glenn Davis was scratched from last night's starting lineup and will miss at least the first few days of the upcoming road trip with a muscle strain beneath his left shoulder blade.
Davis and club officials say the problem is not connected to the nerve injury that cost Davis most of the 1991 season, but the series of rib-cage, neck and shoulder injuries that Davis has suffered over the past two-plus seasons leaves room to wonder how dependable he will be in 1992.
"I have that stigma," Davis said last night. "I'm not worried, not at all. I just feel sorry for the fans, because they expect me to be out there. It's no big deal. I'm just going to miss a few games. It's not like I'm going to be on the disabled list."
That cannot, however, be entirely out of the question, not after Davis said that he "felt like somebody had shot me in the back" when he got off the club's charter flight from Florida on Thursday night.
"I said, 'Whoa, what's happening . . . where in the world did that come from?' Then I came in the next day and it was fine. We played the Mets and it felt OK."
Davis had complained of minor spasms in his neck and shoulders during spring training, but was available to play regularly. He received a cortisone shot during the weekend and took the day off on Saturday, when the club played an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at RFK Stadium, but returned to the lineup for Monday's regular season opener. That apparently was a mistake.
"It was killing me," he said, "but my name was in the lineup. It was Opening Day. I wasn't about to come out of the lineup even though all day I was just hoping and praying that I could get through the next inning. Rick [Sutcliffe] pitched such a good game, there was no way I was going to spoil it by making a move and coming out of the game. I just did what I could do. The next morning, I came in and it was bothering me."
The problem initially was diagnosed as bursitis, but Davis underwent a series of tests on Tuesday to determine the nature of the injury. Those tests apparently revealed nothing to indicate that the injury was anything but a minor muscle strain.
The injury is similar to the rib cage strain that limited his playing time in his final season with the Houston Astros, but club officials say that it is not in the same area and is not of comparable severity.
"I've been completely assured that is is not even remotely connected to what happened last year or what happened the year before," manager John Oates said. "It is on the lower left side vs. the upper right side. It's just a spasm."
Oates even had Davis in his original lineup early yesterday. He rewrote the lineup card later, moving Randy Milligan from the No. 2 position in the lineup to the cleanup spot and adding utility player Tim Hulett to the batting order.
General manager Roland Hemond said that Davis would remain behind when the club flies to Toronto tonight to begin a three-game series against the Blue Jays at SkyDome, but might rejoin the club later on the trip.
If this is beginning to sound familiar, it was a year ago on April 26 that Davis was placed on the disabled list with a damaged spinal accessory nerve in his neck. The club announced at the time that he could return in as little as three or four weeks, but he did not rejoin the lineup for nearly four months.
"It's not anything like that other injury," Hemond said. "There's no connection with it. The doctor specifically said that. The tests yesterday did not indicate any specific injury."
In 1990, he appeared in 93 games for the Houston Astros after a rib-cage injury sidelined him for nearly two months. He was traded to the Orioles during the off-season for pitchers Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling and outfielder Steve Finley.
The Orioles originally signed him to a one-year contract worth $3.275 million, but he agreed to take a cut in guaranteed salary this year (to $2.865 million) when he signed a two-year deal worth more than $6 million.
Hemond said that although the two injuries may be similar in nature, Davis is reacting to this one much better than he did when injured last year.
"Glenn seemed to think it did not hurt as much," Hemond said. "He said he feels better than he did yesterday."