Johnny Oates had contemplated the move for a month. The Orioles manager didn't want to break up the top of his lineup, considering that Brady Anderson and Mike Devereaux were in the midst of career seasons.
But Oates had to do something, not only to take the pressure off a struggling Cal Ripken but to get more production from the entire middle of the batting order. The hotter Devereaux got, the more runs he drove in, the more obvious it became to Oates.
So shortly after he arrived at Camden Yards last Friday, Oates pulled the trigger. He changed a batting order he had used almost exclusively for the past three months. He kept Anderson in the leadoff spot, but moved Devereaux to third and squeezed Randy Milligan between them.
"With Randy hitting behind Brady, he goes deep into the count a lot and that gives Brady more of a chance to run," Oates said. "Devo [Devereaux] now has a chance to drive in more runs. They [Anderson and Devereaux] might be able to play their games better separated than together."
The jury is still out on Oates' move, because the Orioles have dropped two of three since it was made, including yesterday's 7-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics. The experiment likely will continue when the California Angels come in for a three-game series starting tonight.
Though Oates discussed his decision with all involved in the move, Anderson and Devereaux said that the switch to break up what was baseball's most explosive 1-2 combination this season came as a surprise.
And though Anderson and Devereaux understood why it was done, neither seemed overly enthused.
"I try not to make a big deal about it," said Devereaux, who has gone 3-for-9 with two RBI since moving to No. 3. "I try not to do anything more or less than I did before."
Said Anderson: "I like Devo hitting behind me. But whatever Johnny thinks is better for the team is fine with me. I'm sure I'll like Moose [Milligan] hitting behind me."
Before the move, Anderson and Devereaux were threatening to become one of the most productive 1-2 hitting combinations in recent baseball history, with 35 home runs, 151 RBI, 137 runs scored and 99 extra-base hits.
They rank first and second in nearly every offensive category on this year's Orioles team. Devereaux has one more hit (139-138), one more double (24-23), two more triples (10-8) and 13 more RBI (84-71) than Anderson. Anderson has scored 16 more runs than Devereaux (78-62). They each have hit a team-high 18 home runs.
Both are on pace to join select groups: If Anderson reaches his projected stats of 23 home runs, 93 RBI and 54 steals, he will join Joe Morgan, Barry Bonds and Cesar Cedeno in a select group of power-and-speed players. Devereaux is headed for 108 RBI and 311 total bases, figures reached by only four center fielders since 1980 and five Orioles all-time.
"They said we would have finished eighth in a seven-team division without Cal last year," Oates said. "I can't imagine where this club would be without these two guys."
If two players can enjoy thoroughly the individual success of the other, it's Anderson and Devereaux. They are of similar age and temperament. They play next to each other in the outfield, and dress next to each other in the clubhouse. They play basketball and sometimes work out together in the off-season.
"When you live and work with each other for eight months, it's only natural that you spend time with guys you like the other four months," said Devereaux, who unlike Anderson is married. "I think we like to push each other to get better."
Said Anderson: "We're good friends. We have a really good working relationship. We know how much ground each of us can cover out there. You don't see a lot of confusion between us."
They also share something else: Both have been pushed aside (( during their respective careers, only to come back and prove their detractors wrong. Especially Anderson.
After coming from Boston in a highly publicized, and later criticized, trade for pitcher Mike Boddicker in 1988, there were some in the Orioles' organization who were ready to declare Anderson a bust.
It seems a long time ago, but it was only last summer that Anderson was still on the Baltimore-to-Rochester shuttle, unable show that he was ready to become an everyday big-league player. Only a strong showing after being recalled in September brought Anderson's average up to .230 and kept alive the hope that he was a late bloomer.
"Maybe they were going to wait to see how I did when I came back up," said Anderson, 28. "That was the key to this year for me. That sort of gave me a new life. Before, it was like, 'How much is a Japanese team going to offer for me?' "
Said Orioles assistant GM Doug Melvin: "I don't think we got totally down on Brady. We never got that close to the point where we considered making a deal with anyone. We always thought that he could hit on the major-league level. It was just a matter of getting a chance."