Orioles' Davis hasn't got time for the pain AH Another hurtful season might be his last, he says If this is my last year, I want to go out with a ring on my finger

March 08, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Glenn Davis spent the off-season training hard for the 1993 season. He wants to return to first base. He wants to be the dominant hitter he was for more than six seasons with the Houston Astros. He wants to make the most of the final year of his contract with the Orioles, but he also has made a decision.

This might be his last stand.

Davis said yesterday that he will do everything in his power to help the Orioles win a world championship this year, but if this season is anything like the last two, he probably would retire when it is over.

"My wife and I have talked about that," said Davis, who will turn 32 March 28. "I'm not going to put my family through that again. But that doesn't mean I'm throwing in the towel. I want to win more than anyone else in this clubhouse. If this is my last year, I want to go out with a ring on my finger."

The tribulations of the past two seasons have been well-documented. Davis was acquired by the Orioles for three top prospects after the 1990 season, but he never got a chance to live up to his reputation as one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League.

He suffered a freak neck injury during spring training in 1991 and spent most of the season trying to figure out whether he ever would play again. He returned to appear in 49 games and signed a two-year contract, but chronic back and shoulder soreness hampered him throughout the 1992 season.

"I didn't have fun last year," Davis said. "We were winning and it should have been fun, but it wasn't. The 1991 season was spent trying to overcome the neck injury. Last year was the first year when I had to play in pain all year."

The Orioles and Davis said last year that the back and shoulder problems were not connected to the damaged spinal accessory nerve that crippled his right shoulder the year before. Now, Davis is not so sure. He worries that the freakish injury in '91 might have long-term effects that extend well beyond the baseball diamond, but he apparently has made good progress in his rehabilitation program.

"I think they all [his injury problems] are at least indirectly related," he said. "We don't know if the nerve damage had more effect on my body than we realized. There is no telling what the consequences may be. But, at the same time, there is only one way to find out, and that is to play and do all that you can to overcome it and erase that question mark."

He has not played in a spring-training game yet, and there is no timetable for his first appearance, but, by all accounts, his spring conditioning program is going well. Manager Johnny Oates told him early in camp to focus on being ready for Opening Day of the regular season rather than the early weeks of the exhibition schedule.

A new attitude

Davis spent the off-season working out with fitness guru Mackie Shilstone, who is better known for his work with heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe. The program was aimed at allowing Davis to go back to first base and return to the form that made him such an offensive threat during his days with the Astros. While he waits to find out if the program was successful, Davis is trying to adjust his attitude to handle whatever the future brings.

"My goal this year is to have a good time regardless," he said. "You never know in this game. It could be the last year I play, so I'm going to have fun and enjoy it -- something I've never been able to do in baseball."

If his career statistics are any indication, Davis had a lot of fun in Houston, where he hit 30 or more home runs three times in the spacious Astrodome. But, to hear him tell it, he never got around to smelling the roses, and that is about to change.

Pretty much from Day 1 of my career, I've had success -- way above average success -- but I couldn't enjoy it because I was so intense," Davis said. "I never really took it all in and enjoyed it. I don't want to look back on my baseball career someday and realize that I didn't have any fun."

He hasn't been in a position to have fun since he left Houston. The pressure to produce in Baltimore was there from the beginning. It got even heavier last year, with the Orioles locked in a pennant race.

Davis said he knew what everyone was thinking. He knew he wasn't living up to expectations. He just didn't know what to do about it.

"Now, whether we win or don't win, whether I do good or bad, whether the critics abuse me or not, whether the fans get on me or not, whether people accept me or not, or respect me or not, those issues are no longer important in Glenn Davis' life," he said. "What's important is enjoying and trying to take advantage of the opportunities you've been given. I don't know what's in the future, but I'm going to make the most of it."

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