In addition to pitches, D. Smith can hit notes

SIDELIGHT

June 16, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

For the time being, Orioles newcomer Dwight Smith is hoping to dazzle the Camden Yards faithful with his bat, not with his pipes.

Smith, who joined the club yesterday after being traded from the California Angels, is a pretty good singer, who has performed the national anthem at Anaheim Stadium and at Wrigley Field, when he was a member of the Chicago Cubs.

In time, he might do the same here, but not before the folks in Baltimore have a chance to appreciate what he can do with a bat or glove.

"I want to hit a couple of homers before I do that [sing]," said Smith, with a grin. "You don't want to have the fans yell 'Sing,' rather than 'Play.' You need to get them on your side first."

If Smith, 30, can fill the Orioles' left-handed-hitting void off the bench, he'll have no trouble getting fans on his side.

Smith knows what he has been brought here to do: pinch hit or pinch run in late-game situations as well as make spot starts.

"They need a left-hand stick and I'll be a good left-hand stick. I want to come here and help this club win a pennant," said Smith, who made his Orioles debut last night, playing left field in the ninth inning.

Smith, who was dealt for a player to be named, signed with the Angels in the off-season after being granted free agency by the Cubs after five seasons in Chicago.

He began the year platooning in left field with Bo Jackson, and was hitting .262 with five homers and 18 RBIs, but lost that job two weeks ago when rookie Jim Edmonds was called up and began playing well.

In fact, Edmonds did so well that Smith became expendable.

"I had some strong feelings that I was going to go. I had heard some things and I thought it [a trade] might happen," said Smith, a career .283 hitter.

Still, when California manager Marcel Lachemann called him into his office before Tuesday's game with Kansas City to tell him that he had been dealt, Smith said he thought it was a joke.

"It's OK. I told him [Edmonds] I wished him well. I base my life on positivity and I see more at-bats here. Any time you're wanted or feel wanted, that's a better situation," said Smith.

Smith's presence will allow manager Johnny Oates the luxury of giving center fielder Mike Devereaux days off against right-handers.

Oddly enough, Devereaux, whose playing time could be reduced by the acquisition, warmly embraced Smith, as the two were once roommates in Puerto Rico.

Smith was the National League Rookie of the Year runner-up in 1989 to Chicago teammate Jerome Walton, posting a .324 average with nine homers and 52 RBIs.

Though Smith isn't known as a great defensive player, general manager Roland Hemond appreciates his reputation for hard work, citing his willingness to go to the Instructional League for three years, where he met up with Rafael Palmeiro.

"That's wanting to be a ballplayer," said Hemond. "That's how you go from being an opposite-field hitter to learning to pull, learning to play more than one position. It's to their credit and it's why they are where they are today."

Back to the subject of music, Smith, who lives in Atlanta, a new center of rhythm and blues, recorded an album in the off-season, and expects it to be released this summer.

Its title is "R U Down," and the sound of hits ringing down off Smith's bat will be sweet music to Orioles fans' ears.

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