Devo off to painful start in right

March 05, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Mike Devereaux made his first exhibition appearance in right field yesterday, and his first fly ball was an adventure he won't soon forget.

Devereaux crashed face-first into a chain-link fence while giving chase to a foul ball in the first inning of yesterday's 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the exhibition opener for both teams. He suffered a gash above his upper lip and another on his forehead, and left the field bleeding heavily.

Twelve stitches were required to close the wounds, but the injury is not expected to keep him out of action more than a day or two. He was cleared by doctors to return to action today, but manager Johnny Oates said that he would not play in today's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The incident focused more attention on Oates' recent decision to move Devereaux from center field to right, a position he had not played in a game since 1989. He appeared to be unsure of himself as he lunged for the ball near the fence, but might have lost his footing on the soft gravel warning track that surrounds Grant Field.

"It was a situation where the ball could have been caught if there wasn't a fence," Devereaux said, "but unfortunately there was. It was a lesson learned."

Devereaux did not use the injuries to demonstrate his displeasure with the decision to move him out of center field, but he did say that his lack of familiarity with the new position might have contributed to the incident.

"In center field, you have room to dive and catch the ball," he said. "In right field, you don't. Sometimes balls you believe you can catch, you have to bail out and let them drop."

It was not an auspicious debut for the new outfield -- in addition, new center fielder Brady Anderson had a long fly ball go over his head -- but no one expects Oates to change his mind and go back to his original outfield alignment.

"I don't anticipate that," Devereaux said. "I'm not looking for Johnny Oates to make a change. He knows that I prefer to play center field, but this incident shouldn't change things."

Oates agreed. He dismissed the notion that the injury was the result of the move and pointed out that Devereaux has been injured on a couple of previous occasions in center field.

"If it is my fault he got hurt today, then it's my fault he got hurt diving for a ball in center field," Oates said. "He was out a month last year. He's only going to be out a day this time, so we're making progress."

ORIOLES TODAY

Site: Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Time: 1:05 p.m.

Orioles starter: Mike Mussina (14-6, 4.46 in 1993)

Cardinals starter: Rene Arocha (11-8, 3.78 in 1993)

TV: None

% Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

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