MINNEAPOLIS L — MINNEAPOLIS -- On the 10th anniversary of his first appearance as an Oriole, Storm Davis made his comeback official.
It was 10 years ago yesterday that Davis made his major-league debut and suffered his first loss. In his third inning of relief he became a 4-3 loser in 16 innings at Yankee Stadium.
Three teams and 102 wins later, Davis is back, once again working out of the bullpen -- and yesterday he pitched three perfect innings in relief to pick up his first win since his return and the Orioles closed out a successful 6-3 road trip with a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.
"I don't remember much about that first game," said Davis, when informed his first win as a born-again Oriole had been 10 years to the day since he broke into the big leagues. "I came in and got [Dave] Winfield to hit into a double-play in the 14th, then somebody hit a double in the 16th to drive in the winning run."
This time it was Randy Milligan, something of a "comebacker" himself, who drove in the winning run with a ground single to right field in the top of the ninth inning. It was Milligan's first appearance after missing six games with a concussion and assorted aches and pains following a collision with Bill Ripken last week in Kansas City.
Milligan, who went 2-for-4 plus a walk, showed a lot of patience against loser Gary Wayne (0-1). The left-hander kept a steady offering of off-speed pitches away from Milligan, who eventually found a hole in the right side of the infield.
As satisfying as the victory was for Milligan, it was especially sweet for Davis. "It brings a smile to my face," the right-hander said when asked what his latest win meant.
"It seems like I can't stop walking around with a smile now that I'm back here," said Davis (1-1). "Sometimes I have to stop -- I don't have to pinch myself, because I know it's real -- because I want to enjoy it.
"Every once and awhile, when we are driving around, Angie [his
wife] and I will just look at each other and say, 'Can you believe this?' We're back home now -- and this time, no matter what happens, we're staying.
"I know it's not going to be perfect," said Davis, "that's not the way life is -- there are going to be some rough days. But we want to enjoy it."
Davis, who sold his home in Baltimore and returned to his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. after his trade to San Diego following the 1986 season, said that he and Angie decided last summer, while in Kansas City, to move back to Baltimore.
"We had rented in Oakland [after being traded by San Diego in 1987], and bought a home in Kansas City, but we went back to Jacksonville at the end of each season," said Davis. "Out of the blue one day last summer, Angie asked me: 'Have you ever thought about moving back to Baltimore?'
"I told her -- 'all the time,' " said Davis. "We had planned to make a trip last winter to look at houses -- the trade just solidified it.
"We're back for good now. We have no plans to leave," said Davis. "We talked about it again the other day. We have to make a commitment on a school for Zachary [the oldest of the three Davis children, who will be six in June]. There's no point in thinking about any place else. When I'm finished with baseball, I'll be hanging around [Oriole Park at Camden Yards] just like everybody else.
"I'd always thought about the possibility of coming back to Baltimore to play," said Davis, "but it didn't look like it was going to work out. When I was traded [from Kansas City for catcher Bob Melvin last December], it was like a dream come true.
"We've come full cycle," said Davis. "We're back home. Baltimore is a good fit for us. It's like we went away on a long trip and now we're back -- to stay."
The Orioles obtained Davis with the idea he would help bolster their starting rotation. Instead, because of the development of Jose Mesa, Davis has been cast as a middle-to-long reliever, where he has compiled a 2.25 earned run average in his first 12 innings.
The difference between the relief pitcher the Orioles have now and the starting pitcher they traded away over five years ago has little to do with physical ability. This is a guy who broke into the big leagues at the age of 20, won 100 games before he was 30, has been traded three times and been a free agent once.
"The difference?" Davis repeated the question. "I actually find myself thinking out there. That, and the fact I have a changeup now.
"It's not a pitch I use a whole lot now, because you don't want to get 'waxed' with your third best pitch in a 4-4 game," said Davis.
As for the cerebral part of the game, Davis cited a situation he faced two nights earlier. "I had Pedro Munoz up with a base open, and he's their hottest hitter," he said.
"Ten years ago, I would've tried to blow him away -- and he probably would've hit a single to left and driven in two runs." Instead, Davis effectively pitched around Munoz, walking him to load the bases, and then got Scott Leius to hit a ground ball that ended the inning.
Davis knows that one win does not guarantee him a successful year, any more than a good road trip makes the Orioles a contender. But it's a start.
"I just want to see us keep some pressure on the people ahead of us and go into September with a chance to win the division," he said.
The Orioles used the first month of the season, and their first prolonged road trip, to take a step in that direction. "A 5-and-4 record on this trip would've been good, considering the teams we were playing," said Rick Sutcliffe, the veteran resident of the Orioles' starting rotation. "A 6-and-3 record is great."
Now the Orioles are back home, and nobody appreciates it more than yesterday's winning pitcher. For Storm Davis, it felt like somebody turned the clock back 10 years.