Melvin has yet to catch on with Royals Ex-Oriole rides bench as backup catcher

June 28, 1992|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

If Bob Melvin maintained a low profile as an Oriole, he is now practically invisible as a Kansas City Royal.

Six months after being traded to the Royals for pitcher Storm Davis, Melvin is in a situation in which he spends most of his time on the inside looking out -- from the bench.

With almost half the season history, Melvin has 48 at-bats, watching frequently as Mike Macfarlane and Brent Mayne do most of the catching.

"I'd like to play him more," said Royals manager Hal McRae. "He's hitting over .300, calls a good game, throws well. But you can't find enough at-bats for three catchers, especially when you have a young guy like Mayne who needs to play to develop."

Melvin, 30, is trying to make the best of it. Never a full-time player, he is accustomed to sharing the load, but never with so many.

"Of course, I want to get time, but there is a logjam, and I've talked with everybody -- the manager, the general manager [Herk Robinson] -- about it," said Melvin.

"I've always gotten my 250 at-bats, maybe played DH against lefties. Now I go for two weeks at a stretch without playing. I got two hits one day, one the next, and I haven't played since."

Melvin is in the second season of a two-year contract he signed with the Orioles. After that, he becomes eligible for free agency. If he isn't traded beforehand, he is likely to join the open market.

"He's frustrated with what's going on, but he understands," said McRae. "There are trade possibilities, but we haven't been able to get value for value. He's not a guy you're just going to release or give away."

Macfarlane is the regular. Mayne is 24 and McRae wants him to play twice a week if possible. The manager is also in a quandary.

On top of his lack of exposure, Melvin had to suffer through the Royals' horrendous 1-16 start with the rest of the team.

"It wasn't good," he said. "We didn't pitch, didn't hit. We were just bad and it all snow-balled. It wasn't a fun position to be in.

"Unfortunately, it happened at the start of the season. It would have been easier to weather in the middle."

So, this is not the best of times for a catcher who averaged 86 games a season during three years with the Orioles.

Melvin said the trade "didn't shock me because I knew they wanted to play Chris [Hoiles] every day. I just thought I'd get to play a little more here."

Melvin is not looking backward to what might have been had he stayed in Baltimore, and he is confident rookie Jeff Tackett will fill in capably for the injured Hoiles.

"Tack is going to catch and do well behind the plate. With the emergence of Brady [Anderson] and Devo [Mike Devereaux], they really won't depend on him to hit much," said Melvin. "Tack will do the job."

Melvin's residence in the Inner Harbor, a short walk from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, is now being occupied by Anderson.

While an Oriole, Melvin watched closely as the new park was being built, but had not seen the finished product until this weekend.

"It has a lot of character," he said. "I really like the backdrop of the city in center field. It's more than I imagined."

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