Spring training '93 a routine fly ball

KEN ROSENTHAL

February 18, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Ah, for the days of old, when Roland Hemond spent the entire spring wheeling and dealing. Remember 1988? Rockin' Roland made a trade a week, bringing the Orioles such phenoms as Mark Thurmond, Rick Schu, Keith Hughes, Jeff Stone and Wade Rowdon.

Now, that was excitement.

Spring training '88 amounted to the building of the Titanic, with the Orioles' leaky ship sinking to 0-21 faster than you could say "Mike Morgan." Spring training '93 won't be nearly as fascinating. In fact, it will be duller than C-Span.

Alas, the Orioles have gone respectable.

Let's see, we'll have that riveting showdown for the fifth starter's job. That wicked free-for-all in right field. That steel-cage match between Jeff Tackett and Mark Parent to determine the backup catcher.

It's a sad state of affairs when rookies present the only possibilities for laughs. Will Wild Brad Pennington throw a pitch into the Gulf of Mexico? Will the wacky Luis Mercedes run the bases backward? They've got a tradition to uphold.

In '87, Floyd Rayford jogged every day in the outfield trying to make weight. In '89, Larry Sheets botched flyballs three different ways in West Palm Beach. In '91, the punch line was an Opening Day rotation consisting of Jeff Ballard, Jose Mesa, Jeff Robinson and Dave Johnson.

Things started getting more serious last spring, but at least it was worth paying attention. Manager Johnny Oates had to find a leadoff hitter, pick a rotation and decide two legitimate spring-training duels -- Tackett vs. Rick Dempsey and Mark McLemore vs. Juan Bell.

Now?

4 Well, everyone can't wait to see Sherman Obando.

The 25-man roster is practically set. Forget about Hemond pulling off a blockbuster deal. Club owner Eli Jacobs can't pay his office rent. He's not going to approve a trade for Ron Gant.

Frankly, there's only one real question:

Will Glenn Davis get hurt?

The Sun plans exhaustive coverage.

We wanted to hire our own doctor, to go with the 432 others who have examined Davis the past two years. Sadly, the medical community resisted our efforts to break new journalistic ground.

A sample interview:

"We want round-the-clock observation. We want every movement recorded. We want charts, glossaries, X-rays."

"No golf?"

Memo to Hillary Clinton:

Forget that national health-care plan.

Left with no alternative, the paper turned over The Davis Watch to a certain overworked columnist, who will be forced to cut down on his beach time during the day and visits to the dog tracks and jai-alai frontons at night.

Not to change the subject, but fans might be wondering, "Where are the Orioles training this spring?" It's always a relevant question for everyone's favorite traveling road show, but, as usual, there is no single answer.

The Orioles again will spend two weeks at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, then play their games at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. They don't take batting practice at Al Lang, mind you. They don't even have a locker room there. They're secondary tenants to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Why don't they have their own spring home five years after moving their games out of Miami? Because, silly, no one will build them a complex. Club officials find this very insulting. After all, they didn't pay for Camden Yards.

It's pointless to raise the issue at a time when Jacobs is trying to sell the club, but the two expansion teams haven't played a single game yet, and they've already got this spring-training thing figured out.

The Colorado Rockies moved into the Cleveland Indians' former home in Tucson, Ariz. The Florida Marlins will play their games in Cocoa Beach, Fla., as they construct their own complex in Melbourne, one of many sites rejected by the Orioles.

That makes 14 teams since 1985 that have found new spring homes. If Orioles president Larry Lucchino is part of the next ownership group, he faces the unique distinction of striking out three different owners.

Ah, but back to the team.

Dull outlook or not, rest assured, something will happen. And if this camp indeed goes according to plan, there's always next spring, when top prospects Jeffrey Hammonds, Mark Smith and Manny Alexander will compete for regular jobs.

All right, time to hit the beach.

I mean, check on Glenn.

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