Greene finds comfort zone with new team Transition, coincidence go hand-in-hand as ex-Red given Hammonds' number

Sidelight

August 12, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As transitions go, Willie Greene's went smoothly upon his arrival yesterday in the visitors' clubhouse at Tropicana Field. Brady Anderson examined the way the career National Leaguer taped the knob of his bat. Eric Davis, Greene's former teammate with the Cincinnati Reds, stepped over with a greeting during batting practice. Third base coach Sam Perlozzo, whose career with the Reds briefly overlapped Greene's, likewise offered a comfort zone.

Coincidence also revealed itself. Not only did Greene inherit the locker that was to be occupied by Jeffrey Hammonds, he took his No. 11 as well.

Manager Ray Miller welcomed Greene by starting him in right field and batting him eighth against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he went 0-for-2 with two walks.

"I'm looking forward to contributing here," Greene said moments before participating in pre-game stretching. "I had no real desire to leave Cincinnati, but I'm glad if it had to happen to come to a winning club like this one. Hopefully, I can help this team get where it wants to go."

Greene becomes the fifth team member who did not join the club out of spring training. Like Hammonds with the Orioles, he had become better known for his limitations than his talents in Cincinnati. While the Reds perceived an unhappy player with questionable motivation, the Orioles saw a dangerous fastball hitter who represents insurance at positions now manned by pending free agents B.J. Surhoff, Davis and Rafael Palmeiro.

"I like him at the corners whether he's in the infield or outfield," said Miller. "I don't see him as a center fielder, but we've already got a guy [Anderson] who's signed for the next four years out there."

The perception of a needed new beginning did not jibe with Greene's take on the trade.

"I think it has as much to do with money as anything," said Greene, who makes $1.75 million this season and is eligible four times for arbitration. Greene experiences the process for a second time next winter. "Those considerations mean a lot over there."

Greene arrived having hit .270 with 14 home runs, 49 RBIs and 57 runs for the Reds. Of his home runs, 11 had come against right-handed pitching. Most noticeable to the Orioles were his 356 at-bats despite a platoon arrangement with right fielder Reggie Sanders. Hammonds never gave his former team more than 397 at-bats in a year. His constant battle with injuries eventually pushed the Orioles to seek Monday's trade.

With Cincinnati, Greene had chafed over abbreviated playing time. He had compiled 91 RBIs last season and did not welcome being moved off third base into an outfield platoon. In an exchange of unrealized potential, the Orioles preferred the player who scratched to get into the lineup.

"It's tough when you need to make a move and have only two options," said Miller. "When you know what's the right move to make, but you can't because that guy can't play, that makes it tough."

Greene will play almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. Because Harold Baines typically serves as designated hitter, his time will come in right field.

Last night his American League debut came at the expense of Davis, who carries a club-record 26-game hitting streak, and Rich Becker, who had appeared in 26 of the Orioles' last 31 games. Becker will likely now be relegated to pinch-hit duties.

Greene grounded to first base in his inaugural Orioles at-bat. His first defensive chance came on John Flaherty's second-inning fly ball. Unfortunately, his offensive performance fit in well with his teammates' as Devil Rays starter Julio Santana checked them on two hits through seven innings.

Pub Date: 8/12/98

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