Melvin catches on in K.C., but only every fifth game

April 22, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Ex-Oriole Bob Melvin finds himself in a rather dubious position with the Kansas City Royals these days.

Although considered one of three catchers on the roster capable of playing regularly, Melvin has had only four at-bats. The Royals are reported to be attempting to make a trade.

In hopes of solving a couple of problems, beleaguered Royals manager Hal McRae has designated Melvin as the personal catcher for left-hander Mark Davis. Three years ago, the Royals committed $13.25 million to Davis over four years, hoping he would become the club's closer.

More than halfway through that investment, the Royals are trying to salvage something with Davis in their rotation as the No. 5 starter.But, in two starts, Davis has a 9.90 ERA, having allowed 11 earned runs in 10 innings.

Melvin and Davis were teammates with the San Francisco Giants in 1986 and 1987, and pitching coach Guy Hansen says familiarity in this case could breed success. "We've got a high-quality guy in Melvin," Hansen said. "He can get his mind in tune with Davis and his stuff. If that's all he has to think about, I think it makes sense."

The Royals tried a similar tactic last year, when they brought in Pat Dobson, who was the pitching coach for the San Diego Padres when Davis saved 44 games in 1989 and won the National League Cy Young Award. But that move proved so unsuccessful that Dobson didn't even survive the year, and Davis was converted to a starter in an effort to salvage his career.

The latest move is at least one way for the Royals to find playing time for Melvin while they pursue trade possibilities.

"It gives me a chance to play once every five days, or whatever it is," Melvin said. "In that respect, it's welcome."

Mike Macfarlane is the regular catcher, with Brent Mayne in the No. 2 role, leaving Melvin to perform caddie duties for Davis. The belief is that the Royals will take the best deal they can get, involving any of the catchers.

"I like it here and would like to stay," said Melvin, who was traded by the Orioles for right-hander Storm Davis last winter. "But nobody wants to sit every day."

At the moment, catching Mark Davis is Melvin's only ticket into the lineup. "If you watch him pitch, he has great stuff," said Melvin. "This is something else they're trying, hoping it works."

As a reliever, Mark Davis struggled so much he never had a chance to get untracked. Now that he's starting, he's pitching like a reliever -- having success early, then falling victim to the big inning.

"This [working exclusively with Melvin] might be something that will work," the Royals' Davis said. "If they want to try it, that's great."

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