Half-healthy Davis could hurt Orioles

MIKE LITTWIN

May 11, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

Johnny Oates is taking questions.

Q: Is Glenn Davis 100 percent now?

A: (Oates stares straight ahead.)

Q: Does Glenn say he's 100 percent?

A: That's what he says.

Is something going on here? The answer is yes. Do we have any idea what it is? The answer is: Not exactly.

Officially, Davis, freshly returned from the disabled list, is being eased into the Orioles' lineup. And yet, he sat out the entire weekend series with the White Sox, meaning Endeavour is having less trouble slipping that broken satellite into its hold than the Orioles are in fitting Davis into the lineup.

Here's my theory: If Davis were fit, he'd be playing.

I went to test that theory on Davis yesterday. That would not prove to be as easy as it might sound.

Let's first dismiss any notion that he has been intentionally slow to come back. Davis desperately wants to play. The real $H question is: Is he ready?

When the question was put to Davis, he didn't answer right away. Finally, he said, "I'm doing what I can do."

I tried again.

Glenn, how would you assess your physical condition?

He paused again. And then he repeated, "I'm doing what I can do."

Is that vague enough for you? Davis can do vague. Let's say that in the best of times, he can wander during an interview. And in this case, the topic is not his favorite. He'd rather talk about almost anything than his injuries.

On this day, Davis was standing outside his locker 90 minutes after an Orioles loss, his back bright red from whirlpool treatment. It was an awful game, the Orioles' worst of the season. It was a bad time in an otherwise successful homestand. And Davis, as he has been for most of the season, was simply a spectator.

Why didn't Davis play?

"Johnny calls the shots," Davis said. "He knows exactly what he's doing."

I tried again.

I asked if, when called, he was ready to be the real Glenn Davis.

"If you're asking whether I'm Glenn Davis yet," he said, "I don't think I'm Glenn Davis yet. But even Glenn Davis at half my game can contribute. I can still contribute."

Actually, half of Glenn Davis isn't enough. Maybe 90 percent would do. But if Davis isn't able to swing the bat at full strength, why play him ahead of, say, Sam Horn?

It was Davis' call to come off the disabled list. Davis, who sat out a month with a strained muscle in his back, told the Orioles he was ready. Because Davis said he was ready, the decision was made not to send him out on a rehab assignment, but to keep him with the big club.

The idea, as Oates explained it last week, was to get him a few at-bats, work him at DH and then move him into the lineup at first base. He hasn't played since getting four at-bats as a DH Thursday night in which he did not swing the bat very well. So, what happened to the original plan?

Oates isn't saying. But can we guess along with the manager? He must have thought Davis was healthier than Davis is suggesting he is now.

When Davis was asked if he has rushed himself back, he didn't answer directly. But what do you infer from this response?

"My heart is to help the Orioles to win," he said. "My heart is to do the best that I can for the good of the ballclub whether I'm a half a player right now or whether I'm a complete player right now."

It's getting clearer. Davis has taken this injury, coming off last year's, very hard. He says he regards it as a test. And he says that though he doesn't have any answers for what has happened to him, he believes he is due for some better fortune.

Who knows how these injuries have played on his mind?

"I've given and I've given and I've given," he said. "I believe thgood is going to come back."

And so he is trying. When he returned at the end of last season, he wasn't completely ready. In fact, he would say later that he risked paralysis in coming back at all.

Is he putting himself at risk now?

"I don't know," he said. "Maybe I am. You always have to take risks. You have to play with pain. Sometimes you have to get over the hump. You have to cross barriers. I can't wait to be picture perfect."

But if he isn't ready to play, he isn't doing the Orioles, or himself, any good. The Orioles need Glenn Davis. But they don't need a Glenn Davis who isn't ready. Yes, he has to get over the hump. But, to complete Davis' metaphor, he has to be sufficiently fit to do the required jumping.

Here's what Davis would say: "All I can do is give it all I've got and hope I can get by with that."

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