Prodded Myers gives Orioles charge with his belated arrival to camp

February 24, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Reliever Randy Myers arrived in camp yesterday, eight days after the Orioles would've preferred, and immediately proved manager Davey Johnson wrong.

Early in the week, Johnson predicted that whenever Myers reported, he would be wearing camouflage-style khakis and carrying a couple of dud grenades and perhaps a women's basketball trophy.

No truth to that. In fact, Myers showed up wearing a camouflage-style shirt, wielding a high-voltage stun gun. "It's just a little one," Myers said.

There was no trophy, but that may come next week. Myers is the assistant basketball coach for the Clark Community College Penguins in his home state of Washington, and delayed his arrival to training camp as long as possible to help the Penguins prepare for the playoffs next weekend.

Myers called Johnson ahead of time to tell him he wouldn't be in camp on the voluntary reporting date of Feb. 15, and Johnson went along with the pitcher -- to a degree. Johnson called Myers twice earlier this week, suggesting it was time for the Orioles' new closer to come to work.

Myers flew into Fort Lauderdale on Thursday night, and he was at the training complex at 7:30 yesterday morning, and immediately made his presence felt; Orioles walking in the clubhouse door were blown away by reverberating heavy metal music, the sounds of choice for the pitcher who carries a cattle prod.

He warmed up and ran through fielding drills with his new teammates, before being separated to go through his own workout. While other pitchers threw batting practice, Myers threw about 10 minutes, impressing pitching coach Pat Dobson with his velocity and command.

"He looked good," Dobson said. "He told me he's been throwing off a mound. I think he might be in better shape than we think he is."

Johnson and Dobson feared Myers might arrive with his arm out of shape, and try to catch up with his teammates and throw too hard too soon. Dobson said he'll restrict Myers' workouts for the next few days, before allowing him to throw to hitters, but Myers eased their concerns with his initial outing.

"He'll get 20-25 innings in this spring, and especially for a guy who throws one inning [at a time], that's plenty," Johnson said. "His work ethic is second to none, and we knew that he'd been working out. His house is like Fort Myers -- barbed wire, surveillance cameras.

"He's ready right now. If we had a game today, he'd probably be ready to go."

Myers said his arrival in camp also was delayed by flooding in the Northwest. He had to move his mother, who lives on the side of Mount St. Helens, to a safer house. He spent one afternoon bagging sand, in an effort to hold back flood waters.

Besides, Myers said, he wasn't really late -- no player is required to report until March 1, according to union rules.

Teammate and old friend Roger McDowell, playing cards nearby, overheard this and let out a guffaw.

"You're late!" McDowell yelled.

Myers kept on explaining the union rules to reporters.

"You're late!" McDowell yelled again, even louder.

Finally, Myers cracked a small smile.

In past years, Myers' lockers have been adorned with massive hunting knives, dud grenades, all sorts of combat stuff. There didn't appear to be any such paraphernalia in his locker. Perhaps Myers, his hair graying, has mellowed.

Or maybe not. As soon as the crowd of reporters left, Myers reached down into his locker and grabbed a black bag. From this he pulled the cattle prod, which crackled each time he touched a wall, a chair. A teammate.

"Two thousand volts," Myers explained.

Bobby Bonilla, three lockers away, burst out laughing. "Ooooh, this team has some character now!" he yelled. "It's official! This team has character!"

It is official. The '96 Orioles have all reported to work, including their new closer, Randy Myers.

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