O's Buford again avoids demotion

June 25, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

When Damon Buford got the news yesterday that Paul Carey, not he, would be returning to the minor leagues to make room for Sherman Obando on the Orioles' roster, he handled it as if he had just won the lottery.

"I've been dodging bullets for about eight weeks now," said Buford, 23, who was recalled on May 3 to fill in for an injured Mike Devereaux. "It's one of those things where I didn't know who it was going to be. I had a feeling it was going to be me or Paul Carey and it was Paul Carey."

Carey, who was sent to Triple-A Rochester, took the word with good humor. "I knew it was one of probably two or three people," he said. "I knew I was one of those two or three people."

Then, with a grin, Carey said, "Me or Cal [Ripken]. I think they were biased toward the streak."

Carey was caught by a series of events that weren't of his making, but still spelled his demotion.

First, Obando, who strained his right hamstring last month, was returning from a rehabilitation assignment and had to return to the Orioles' roster, or be offered to the New York Yankees for $25,000.

Buford, who has not played since June 12, when he pinch-ran in Boston, seemed a likely candidate to give up a spot for Obando.

And Carey, the only left-handed bat on the bench, might have remained here if not for Brady Anderson's case of the chickenpox, leaving Buford as the Orioles' only backup center fielder.

Anderson's ailment and the uncertainty of his return, combined with the fine play of first baseman David Segui, whom Carey could have spelled, forced manager Johnny Oates to examine the numbers and decide to keep Buford, mostly because of his speed.

Buford said: "There's been a lot of crazy things that have happened since I've been here. Glenn [Davis] goes down and breaks his jaw and now Brady gets chickenpox. I can't say who makes those decisions, but I'm happy to still be here."

The man who makes those decisions -- Oates -- admitted that a number of factors entered into it.

"How many starts would Carey get the way Segui is playing? Maybe one or two. How many times will there be a possibility that you need Buford to run? Who would I use the most?" said Oates.

In the end, the answer to the last question was Buford, though with a proviso attached.

The speedy center fielder has seen his batting average tumble to .224 and he needs to hit. The problem for Oates and Buford is that there is no shortage of outfielders who are swinging the bat well, leaving little opportunity for Buford.

Oates and Buford have set a goal of 300 at-bats for him, which likely will be achieved in the minors and winter ball.

Oates said: "Winter ball might be the way to get him the at-bats, but right now, we need him to help us win. The thing is Damon has a great attitude about the situation and that makes it nice."

Playing or sitting, Buford isn't about to complain.

"I'm having the best time of my life," he said. "My goal is to stay here and watch us win and get in there on the times when I can and try to produce."

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