New role isn't easy for Dempsey He's uncomfortable as an instructor

April 25, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- At first, it seemed like a good idea. Rick Dempsey returns to Baltimore, if not as a player then as an organizational instructor. But some heartwarming stories have unhappy endings.

For the first time since accepting the position after being cut at the end of spring training, Dempsey acknowledged last night that he's beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable with the role. Sort of like the favorite uncle who overstayed his welcome.

"I'm here but I'm not here," Dempsey said before last night's game against the New York Yankees. "I knew it was going to be tough when I took it."

Dempsey, 42, said he hasn't given up on the notion of playing again. The idea of being activated occurred to him after Randy Milligan's collision with Bill Ripken in Kansas City, Mo.

"When I took this job, they told me that if anybody got hurt, that was always a possibility," Dempsey said. "They said, 'Just be ready at all times.' "

Though it appears Milligan could be back in the Orioles lineup by Monday, the thought of reactivating Dempsey flashed through manager Johnny Oates' mind.

Oates hinted before last night's game that the roster move he would have recommended making if Milligan had been sidelined for a couple of weeks probably didn't involve bringing up another first baseman from Triple-A Rochester.

"I know what I had in mind, but I don't know whether I would've been able to do it," Oates said.

When pressed, Oates said that the need only would have been for another right-handed hitter, and he would not have had to search far to find one. "We've got an experienced right-handed hitter right here," he said.

Oates wouldn't be more specific, but it was obvious he was referring to Dempsey. And Dempsey is champing at the bit to get another chance.

It's not just the opportunity to play 20 years -- he has 19 years and 13 days of service -- or to have one last chance to play for the Orioles, for whom he played a decade. If it's not with Baltimore, Dempsey says it could be somewhere else.

But he's not going to do anything rash.

"If I get upset about it and go home, I'm just spiting myself," said Dempsey, who played in 61 games with the Milwaukee Brewers last season, batting .231. "I still feel I have a couple of years left in me."

Asked how the Orioles players have reacted to him, Dempsey said, "Nobody's been condescending. Most of the guys have been very good about it. Some are a little standoffish, because they don't know what to say."

Dempsey indicated that he probably would not stay in his role past the All-Star break. He is confident that he can land a job, even it means calling every general manager in baseball. That is how he found jobs the past few years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Brewers.

"I'd be willing to sacrifice half the season if it meant that I'd finish the season in Baltimore," he said. "Carlton Fisk is still going at NTC age 45, and there's no reason I can't play longer than him."

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