Ouch! Rochester trip is a must for Davis

KEN ROSENTHAL

May 28, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

NEW YORK -- They're going to see this through to the bitter end. The Orioles traded three young players for Glenn Davis, then parted with Mickey Tettleton so they could pay him. Ten million dollars later, you think they're about to give up?

Not on your spinal accessory nerve.

So now Davis goes to Triple-A Rochester for 15-20 games, then returns for one last chance to salvage his career. Please, not one word about the great sacrifice he's making by accepting a minor-league demotion. He, too, is boxed in.

Yes, Davis could have played hardball, using his leverage as a five-year veteran to reject the assignment. But the Orioles would have just let him rot on the bench, his personal purgatory for 12 of the previous 17 games.

Desperate as manager Johnny Oates was for run production in that stretch, he snubbed Davis as a DH in favor of a Rule V draft pick (Sherman Obando), a journeyman outfielder (Mark Leonard) and a rookie in his major-league debut (Paul Carey).

Gentle Glenn took the hint.

He's only 32, and if he wants to play next season, he'd better get his act together and impress someone -- the Tokyo Giants? -- soon. The only way the Orioles will take him back is if he returns as Crash Davis and leads them to the AL East title.

Not even Michael Jordan would take that bet.

So, crazy as this sounds, it makes sense. The Orioles were wasting a roster spot with Davis, depriving Oates of flexibility. Now Harold Baines and Mike Devereaux are back, and Damon Buford remains along with Jack Voigt, giving the manager two pinch runners.

The effect on the club?

It can only be positive.

Davis did not stay at the team hotel in New York. He and his wife, Teresa, made their own arrangements elsewhere, but unlike Cal Ripken, did not have club permission.

According to general manager Roland Hemond, Davis also did this on previous trips to New York, when he arrived ahead of the team for doctor's appointments.

Hemond views the whole thing as a simple misunderstanding, but remember the old joke about how the squabbling Boston Red Sox needed 25 cabs for 25 players?

The Orioles are getting so self-absorbed, they'll soon need 25 different hotels.

"We can work it out," Hemond said.

With Davis, or with everybody?

"With everybody."

Including Ripken?

"I don't care to comment further."

To think, the New York Mets are exasperated that their 3-4 hitters, Eddie Murray and Bobby Bonilla, have combined for only 51 RBI. Ripken and Davis, the Orioles' original 3-4 hitters, have combined for only 27 -- or 10 fewer than the departed Tettleton.

Literally and figuratively, they're nowhere to be found.

Ripken, at least, seems to be reviving, even though his average is at a season-low .204. He has hit two home runs since changing his stance last Saturday, and crushed three balls at Yankee Stadium that would have been homers in Camden Yards.

"He's been hitting some balls in batting practice that I haven't seen him hit in two years," Oates said. "They've been out there in Monsterland."

Oates had planned to bat Ripken fifth when Devereaux and Baines returned, but he's so encouraged by the shortstop's progress, he put him back in the No. 3 spot.

The Orioles were 9-15 when Baines joined Devereaux on the disabled list, 10-11 without them. Now almost everyone is hitting. Perhaps it's time for this team to finally get hot.

Chris Hoiles hit his seventh homer and an RBI double last night, making it eight extra-base hits in his past 25 at-bats. Leo Gomez has seven homers in his past 23 games. Brady Anderson is slowly emerging from a monthlong slump.

Most encouraging of all, David Segui is proving a solid offensive player. Entering last night, Segui led the club in RBI ratio, with 12 in 79 at-bats. His predecessor, Randy Milligan, had only 13 RBI in 141 at-bats for the Cincinnati Reds.

Segui also had a .400 on-base percentage, and one more double than Ripken (8-7). He's not going to be a Fred McGriff. But Oates thinks he might be capable of hitting 10-12 homers, an adequate total if the Orioles generate other power.

Where does that leave Davis?

Don't ask.

The Orioles are too embarrassed to play him, too embarrassed to release him.

Enjoy Rochester, Glenn.

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