With Davis, mystery loves company

KEN ROSENTHAL

April 25, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI — KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Late Friday night, a nearly empty Orioles clubhouse. Glenn Davis sits bare-chested in front of his locker, pondering his .189 batting average.

Glenn, are you healthy?

Davis responds with his own question.

"Does it matter?"

Ten minutes pass, and nothing is resolved.

Does it matter? Of course, it matters. Davis can't help the Orioles if he's injured. But, apparently, he's convinced that no one on the outside cares.

Indeed, there's only one way for Davis to end the booing at Camden Yards, muzzle the skeptics in his own clubhouse and regain his standing as one of the most feared hitters in the game.

In short, he must do what he did yesterday, delivering a two-out RBI single in the eighth inning to provide the go-ahead run in the Orioles' 6-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Is he healthy?

From every indication, the answer is yes.

Davis already has more at-bats this April (57) than the past two combined (44). He has yet to visit the trainer's room for medical treatment. Manager Johnny Oates is impressed with his "body life," particularly at first base.

Now, can he hit?

This is the far bigger question. Oates and hitting coach Greg Biagini believe Davis can return to the form he showed in the National League, where he averaged 28 homers for six seasons.

Others aren't so sure.

One club source says Davis' bat still looks slow. Another is baffled by Davis' approach, the way he keeps taking pitches even when he doesn't appear fooled.

On some nights, Davis looks ready to bust loose, coming within inches of mammoth home runs. On other nights, he can't even make contact against left-handers, the pitchers he once owned.

He isn't the only Oriole who has struggled, but Mike Devereaux had a three-hit game yesterday, and Cal Ripken an RBI in each of the final two innings.

They're certain to snap out of it.

With Davis, the mystery lingers.

He was one strike away from another 0-for-4 yesterday. Royals closer Jeff Montgomery had just issued an intentional walk to Harold Baines, preferring the right-right matchup instead.

"As a hitter," Davis said, "you want to strike back."

That's exactly what he did, lining a single through the middle to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead. Davis is third on the club in RBI with six. But he still hasn't hit a home run.

Is he healthy?

Can he hit?

Will the questions ever end?

"What I did in Houston is history," Davis said Friday night. "Can I get back to that point? I believe I can. Will I? I don't have the answer to that.

"I'm still the same player. I've showed signs that I haven't lost what I had. But right now, I haven't been able to put up the numbers. I know that. Everyone knows that. That's a fact.

"If you want to say injuries have done it, you can say that. But I'm not saying that. I don't think that matters anymore. I don't want it to be an issue. I don't want to bring it up again."

He knows the fans don't want to hear it. They boo him because he cost the Orioles Pete Harnisch, Steve Finley and Curt Schilling. They boo him because he earns $3.75 million. They boo him because he's essentially 0-for-the-past-three-years.

nTC It all will change, if Davis ever starts hitting. "Nobody's beating me," he said, but it's not like he's pounding opposing pitchers, either. Yes, his defense has been a plus. But if that's the priority at first base, Oates should play David Segui.

Davis is extremely sensitive, so the booing troubles him deeply. Some of his teammates are sympathetic, but others view him as peculiar and self-absorbed. It's a regular soap opera, and Davis senses the Orioles might not want him back.

"Other people in the baseball world see what's going on," he said cryptically. "That's good for me."

What is going on?

As usual, it's impossible to tell.

"I think I'm heading in the right direction," Davis said. "Ever since I've been in Baltimore, I've been searching for that groove. You just know when you're comfortable. You've got that right stance. I haven't been able to find that right stance, those mechanics, that swing."

Maybe it's coming.

Then again, maybe not.

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