Horn, Martinez accept their new roles as Orioles men in waiting

August 15, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The next sound you don't hear will be Sam Horn or Chito Martinez complaining about playing time, even though they have become bit players in the Orioles' surprising run at the American League East title.

Horn became the odd man out when it became apparent that designated hitter was the only position that Glenn Davis could play regularly. Martinez faded into the background when Joe Orsulak emerged from an early-season slump to become one of the league's hottest hitters of the summer.

What's a manager to do?

"If you were the manager of the ballclub today, who would you put in the lineup tonight?" manager Johnny Oates said. "We're in a pennant race."

Oates has gotten no argument from either player. He has heard no grumbling. He considers that the mark of a winning team with excellent chemistry.

"Sam and I have talked," he said. "I understand where Sam is coming from. He has handled it great. He has handled it unbelieveably well. He sees what Glenn has been doing. If Glenn was batting .180 and not driving in runs, then he [Horn] could come in and ask why he isn't playing.

"That goes for Chito, too. They are smart enough to see why they are not playing. Chito can see what Joe is doing at the plate and in the field. Sure, I would like to get them more at-bats, but this is not the time to do it."

The lineup has had a familiar look to it the past few weeks. Davis has been in the cleanup spot every day. He recently showed up at first base for the first time since Opening Day but found that the rigors of playing the field aggravated the back muscles that have hampered him all year.

Randy Milligan plays every day at first base and bats fifth. Orsulak plays full time in right field and bats sixth. That's the way it figures to stay as long as the Orioles continue to win and remain in the division race.

"It's hard to be frustrated when the team is winning," said Horn, who hit 23 home runs in a part-time role a season ago. "I want to be a part of it. I would love to see myself on ESPN contributing, but we've got a guy who's playing well.

"I'm not going to sit behind him and root for him to play bad, because that could come back to haunt me. I'm just happy to be with a winning team, and I'm waiting for my time to come."

His time may not come for a while. Martinez has a better chance of playing in spots, but both have been relegated to pinch-hitting roles for the time being. Both insist that it will all be worth it if the club can continue to make its presence felt in the AL East race.

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