Davis' numbers said offense but his glove shouted defense ORIOLES OPENING DAY '93

April 06, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

The pre-game numbers suggested that Glenn Davis might be an offensive force yesterday at Oriole Park.

He had batted .318 with three home runs against Craig Lefferts while both were in the National League.

He had a .348 average with three homers in Opening Day games and, last season against Texas pitching, Davis hit .367.

But yesterday, in his third straight Opening Day start with the Orioles, the averages evened out. Despite some well-stung foul balls, Davis went 0-for-4, striking out three times. Instead, it was his glove that stood out.

"I think every player wants to do something special in the opener," said Davis. "For me, it was my defense."

"That's the first thing that came to my mind about Glenn, his defense," said manager Johnny Oates. "He takes a lot of pride in it and I don't have any problem with it.

"He catches the ball well and except for that one game in Milwaukee [April 18, 1991, when he tied an American League record with four errors], everything has been fine."

Davis made a nifty stop of a scorcher down the first-base line by Rafael Palmeiro, the second batter of the game, and turned it into an out with a flip to pitcher Rick Sutcliffe.

He finished the game with six putouts and two assists, stretched nicely to retire Bill Ripken after taking a wide throw from Leo Gomez and nearly made a diving tag of the Rangers' speedy leadoff hitter, David Hulse, on a swinging bunt single.

"Sut [Sutcliffe] got there a bit late on that one," said Oates. "Glenn didn't have any choice but to dive. Give the kid [Hulse] credit. He just beat the play."

It was a respectable start for Davis, who is trying to stabilize the first-base situation after two injury-filled seasons that confined him largely to designated hitting and the training room.

There was the freak problem in his neck that forced Davis to miss 105 games two seasons ago. Last year, back spasms limited him to two games at first.

It has been three-plus years since Davis played as many as 150 games on defense. Davis was not discouraged by his offense, either.

"I got some good swings in," said Davis, who disputed a called third strike. "I was getting my pitches, but I just didn't keep them fair."

The cold weather didn't bother Davis, who has changed his uniform number from 37 to 27, the jersey he wore with the Houston Astros when he was one of the most feared sluggers in the game.

"I figured I'd go back to my original," he said. "When I came to the American League I changed because 37 is my wife's [Teresa] favorite number.

"But since then, there has been nothing but a dark cloud hanging over my head. Now, I'm going to a new one [number] and see if it has any significance.

"I had a lot of good years with 27 and I'm optimistic about this year, so we'll see how it goes."

Oates had no problem with Davis' 0-for-4 start. "It's only one game," said the manager.

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