Johns surprises O's, shows up in Texas

Undergoing treatment, he apparently paid own way

Palmeiro makes MVP bid

September 22, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Doug Johns saga gained another bizarre entry Monday when the Orioles left-hander showed up unannounced at the team hotel here while supposedly undergoing evaluation and treatment in Baltimore for a condition associated with recurring insomnia.

Johns did not accompany the team to Anaheim, the first leg of its three-city road trip, after Orioles officials met with him last week. General manager Frank Wren emphasized before last night's game against the Texas Rangers that Johns' absence is "in no shape or form" a disciplinary measure and that he will rejoin the club as soon as he receives clearance from attending physicians. "This is solely for his benefit," Wren said.

"He has to complete the course and I haven't been told he has," Wren said.

Wren refused to elaborate on the nature of the course, but a club source indicated last week that Johns' condition is not drug-related. Johns, 31, was charged with driving under the influence and possession of marijuana in downtown Baltimore following the team's season opener April 5.

Johns did not notify traveling secretary Phil Itzoe of his decision to join the team and apparently paid his own way from Baltimore to Dallas. While he is staying in the team hotel, Johns' name is not on the manifest.

"Apparently Doug is a big Cowboys fan and wanted to come down for [Monday] night's game," said Wren, who insisted he wasn't being facetious. "I guess it was just coincidence we were here."

Wren was unsure whether he was receiving the team rate.

Johns missed about two weeks last year with insomnia-related symptoms. Prior to last week's action, Johns had been inserted into the starting rotation and pitched capably in three starts.

He is projected as part of next year's roster in the role of swingman, a significant job given the uncertain progress of 20-year-old Matt Riley and the likely defection of free-agent reliever Arthur Rhodes.

Palmeiro for MVP

Talk of campaign strategy and split ballots permeates The Ballpark at Arlington as Orioles expatriate Rafael Palmeiro and catcher Ivan Rodriguez are among the leading candidates for this year's AL Most Valuable Player.

Palmeiro, who bolted Baltimore via free agency last December when the Rangers gave him a five-year deal for $5 million less than the Orioles' five-year offer, entered last night's game hitting .335 with 44 home runs, 140 RBIs and a .644 slugging percentage. Palmeiro, primarily a designated hitter this season after undergoing two arthroscopic surgeries on his right knee last spring, retains an outside chance to become the game's first Triple Crown winner since 1967.

"This has been the most fun I've ever had in the game. We're winning. I'm where I want to be. And I'm helping the team," said Palmeiro, in his second stint with the Rangers. "It's fun to be in an MVP race with other guys having great years. It's nice to be recognized for your production."

Interestingly, Palmeiro's stiffest competition could come from his former Orioles teammate, Cleveland Indians second baseman Roberto Alomar. Unlike Palmeiro, Alomar did not receive a contract offer from the Orioles after last season. Like Palmeiro, he chafed at a perceived double standard extended to players such as Cal Ripken, Brady Anderson and Mike Mussina.

"I think he's playing to prove he's one of the best players in the game. I think that slipped away from him a little bit," said Palmeiro.

"He was unhappy. I don't think he was truly appreciated and that got to him a little. But now he's back to his level. He's happy and he's playing the way he's supposed to."

Palmeiro downplays similar motives for himself.

"I never set out to make any points. I think the Orioles knew what they had and what they could expect from me. I think the Rangers knew the same," said Palmeiro. "The only one I needed to prove anything to was myself.

"I don't think I have to prove anything to anybody. I set my goals and standards high. I came in with two operations to my right knee. It's been a big test this year. I think I've proven to myself I can deal with that kind of adversity."

Around the horn

Miller reiterated that Sidney Ponson will start the first game of tomorrow's makeup doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics followed by Riley. Both of Thursday's games against the A's will be televised by Home Team Sports beginning at 4 p.m. Rangers left fielder Rusty Greer was back in the lineup after missing six games due to an eye injury. But Greer was replaced by Roberto Kelly after four innings when Greer experienced discomfort in his left eye. Greer will visit two eye specialists today.

12 and counting

The Orioles' longest single-season winning streaks:

No., Dates

14, Aug. 12-27, 1973

13, May 31-June 14, 1978

12, Sept. 7-now, 1999

11, Sept. 20-Oct. 1, 1970

11, Sept. 19-29, 1971

11, July 12-25, 1987

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