If there was one moment this spring when former Oriole Pete dTC Incaviglia went from being a long shot to a lock in the Detroit Tigers' camp, it was when the nonroster invitee ripped a ball into the gap during an exhibition game and didn't stop running until he reached third base.
Doubles and home runs had been Incaviglia's calling cards. A stand-up triple?
The ball didn't get stuck in the fence, either. It was all Inky, 40 pounds lighter and unwilling to fade into oblivion.
"Actually, I had three of them. That's more than I had in the last five years," he said, sitting in the visitors' clubhouse at Camden Yards before last night's 10-2 loss to the Orioles.
Incaviglia already had a staunch supporter in Detroit manager Buddy Bell, a former teammate with the Texas Rangers. But it wasn't until the triple that he won over general manager Randy Smith, who needed convincing that this wasn't the same muscle-bound, all-or-nothing hitter who was let go by the Orioles in mid-July and finished the year with five homers and 12 RBIs in 154 major-league at-bats.
Incaviglia, who turned 34 on Thursday, is still looking for his first hit after going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Thursday's loss to expansion Tampa Bay and sitting out last night against his former team. He'd love to break out here, where the memories are warm even after the cold parting of ways.
"There are a lot of great people over there, not just great players," he said. "I really enjoyed playing here. It's great to see everybody. I haven't seen these guys since I left here."
He visited with many of the Orioles before the game. As usual, his slimmer physique was a popular subject.
"It's been the norm pretty much all spring. 'What happened?' I had to get in shape," he said. "I lost my Siamese brother."
Here's the skinny on Incaviglia: He finally realized the intensive weight training that allowed him to muscle baseballs out of ballparks throughout the majors was slowing his bat and inhibiting his athleticism.
Starting in October, he began doing more cardiovascular exercises and changed his eating habits after consulting with a nutritionist, avoiding meals after 7 p.m. even though the post-game spreads beckon. He's now at 220 pounds after being more than 260 last August while with the New York Yankees.
"I had to get myself in shape to compete," he said. "I had to change my whole program. It's kind of rewiring your head and teaching yourself when to do things and when not to do things. It's the first time in my career I had to make an adjustment in my off-season conditioning. In the long run, in life, I'm doing the right thing."
Incaviglia appeared in only five games with the Yankees before being released Aug. 15. After returning home, he wasn't sure he wanted to make the commitment needed to revive his career.
"After a couple weeks thinking about it, I felt like my skills hadn't diminished. My physical stature was the problem," he said.
"I've got two kids and a wife. They've been living this life for 12, 13 years. I had to consult them because it affected them as much as me. I love playing baseball and they're never going to get in the way of that. And it made it a lot easier for me to put forth the effort that it took to do this."
Pub Date: 4/04/98