Davis is chasing down raves with glove Former Reds slugger proud of his defense, too

Orioles notebook

March 08, 1997|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- When Eric Davis is asked whether his reputation as a hitter overshadows his defensive work, he refers to the trophy case at his home in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Inside are three Gold Gloves prominently displayed. And if Davis stays healthy and continues to run down balls as he has this spring, there might be a fourth.

Davis took away another hit yesterday, reaching over his head to pull in Jeff Blauser's deep drive in right-center to end the fifth inning.

"That's one where, when it's hit, you just turn around and run as hard as you can and hope you went to a spot where it's there when you get there," said Davis, who also singled in the Orioles' 6-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Davis, 34, has been covering a lot of ground in right field, getting to fly balls near the line and backhanding them in the alley -- balls that probably wouldn't have been caught by Bobby Bonilla last season.

Davis, who was signed by the Orioles as a free agent during the winter, wouldn't touch that subject yesterday. But he said making a catch like yesterday's gives him as much of a thrill as hitting a home run.

"It gives a vote of confidence to the pitchers," he said. "They know they don't have to be too fine. They know they have guys behind them who are trying to make a play for them."

Rain delay for Alomar

Second baseman Roberto Alomar was supposed to jog lightly yesterday with head trainer Richie Bancells to further test his sprained left ankle, but heavy rain during the early morning left the Fort Lauderdale Stadium field too wet and soft. Alomar went on a brisk 12-minute walk and might try to jog today.

Key stretches success

Jimmy Key had his longest outing of the spring yesterday, and he made short work of the Braves.

The veteran left-hander allowed one hit in three innings, a Javy Lopez double to left-center in the second inning. Lopez was stranded when Manny Alexander made a backhanded stop behind second base and threw out Mike Mordecai.

Pitcher John Smoltz drew a one-out walk in the third, but Marquis Grissom bounced to Alexander, who stepped on second to begin a double play.

"I'm just trying to throw my pitches and throw strikes," said Key, who's given up one run in seven innings. "They happen to be hitting the ball at people right now. I'm trying to be aggressive and throw the ball over the plate. I'm where I want to be. My arm feels great. My pitches aren't exactly where I want them, but if I stay healthy, they will be."

Mussina narrows focus

When Mike Mussina was asked this week why his ERA rose to 4.81 last season, even though he matched his career high with 19 victories, he gave the obvious answer: "Because a lot of guys scored." But Mussina also admitted he probably wasn't as good a pitcher as the previous year, when he was 19-9 with a 3.29 ERA, and less distracted.

Back then, there weren't the endless controversies in the clubhouse, the heart-wrenching death of 16 students in the TWA explosion from the Montoursville, Pa., high school he attended and coaches at in the off-season, upcoming contract talks and the questioning of Mussina's ability as a big-game pitcher.

"I made poor pitch selection, and I got caught up in other things that were going on around me, stuff that you shouldn't let affect you, but for whatever reason it did," he said. "The objective this year is to stay out of that kind of stuff, worry about myself and cheer the other guys on."

He also said he won't be obsessed with winning 20 games.

"My objective is to be healthy enough to be out there and pitch every time it's my turn and keep our team in the game, and maybe we'll win. For the last three years, I've been able to do that."

Will he be doing it for the Orioles after this season, when his contract is up? "I grew up in one town, I went to one college and I'm in one organization. It would be kind of nice if I got to stay here the whole time," Mussina said. "But it's a business, so we'll have to see where it leads. I would love to stay."

Around the horn

Assistant GM Kevin Malone said the Orioles hadn't spoken to anyone from San Diego yesterday concerning Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu. Outfielder Jerome Walton (strained abdominal muscle) and infielder Kelly Gruber (right hamstring pull) are day-to-day. Alexander had two more hits yesterday and is batting .523. Rule 5 draftee Mike Johnson has allowed one earned run in seven innings and keeps enhancing his chances of making the Opening Day roster. The Orioles series in Atlanta on June 13-15 is the first to sell out in the Braves' new stadium.

Spring break

What the Orioles did yesterday: Posted their second win over the Atlanta Braves, 6-1. Rafael Palmeiro hit his first homer of the spring, a two-run shot to right-center off Cy Young Award winner John Smoltz, and starter Jimmy Key threw three scoreless innings, as did Rule 5 draftee Mike Johnson.

What the Orioles will do today: Give Scott Erickson his third start of the spring, against the Montreal Expos. Following Erickson will be Nerio Rodriguez, Jesse Orosco and Armando Benitez.

You know it's spring training when: Infielder Manny Alexander rips line drives all over the field. He doubled to center off Smoltz yesterday and is batting .523. His hits haven't been cheap, either.

Pub Date: 3/08/97

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