Amaral welcomes chance to start over


Outfielder doesn't expect promises, just opportunity

February 24, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles outfielder Rich Amaral said he's approaching this spring training like any other, which means proving himself all over again. He doesn't know if he'll make the club as a backup. He doesn't expect any promises.

They've rarely come to a player who turns 38 in April and has lasted parts of nine seasons in the majors, a player who has learned to accept a limited role without complaint.

"I can't control that, so I'm not going to get frustrated," he said. "I just prepare myself so that whenever they ask me to play, I'm ready. If I'm ready, I feel like I'm doing my job."

Amaral, who batted .277 in 91 games last season, said he wouldn't feel more secure if Ray Miller had returned as manager. The familiarity wasn't going to guarantee him a spot on the 25-man roster. Either way, he'd be facing some competition and expected to prove his worth.

"I just feel like I'm always very expendable," Amaral said.

Jeff Conine was re-signed over the winter, in part, to provide depth in the outfield. There's room for Amaral, but he'll have to fend off Eugene Kingsale, 23, who had an outstanding season in the Arizona Fall League after appearing in 28 games with the Orioles last season. But Kingsale has an option remaining and could begin the year at Triple-A Rochester.

Veterans Derrick May, Wayne Kirby and Billy Ashley also are in camp, hoping to nudge Amaral out of the picture. And second baseman Delino DeShields most likely will be used in the outfield this spring.

"Every year I feel like I have to prove myself all over again," Amaral said. "It's almost like day to day, but I think that's good if you approach your career that way. It gets you going and I like that."

Amaral had trouble getting off the bench last season, once going about two weeks without an at-bat. "That's just the way my role is," he said. "As long as I'm staying ready in the batting cage, I feel like I've got a chance when I go up there to hit."

Myers takes foul

Catcher Greg Myers left the field early yesterday after fouling a ball off his toe. Manager Mike Hargrove said Myers suffered only a bruise.

"I saw him inside [the clubhouse] and he said it was fine. It hurt, but he's fine," Hargrove said.

"I told him, `Better you than me.' "

The Orioles can't afford a serious injury to Myers, who was signed as a free agent to back up Charles Johnson. There isn't much depth at the position within the organization.

Clark more relaxed

Even though he's coming off a trying season and August surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow, it's a more relaxed camp for first baseman Will Clark. That's because his thoughts are more easily trained on baseball.

Clark's wife, Lisa, has been given a clean bill of health by doctors after having open-heart surgery last winter. A physical had revealed a hole in her heart, which explained the shortness of breath she experienced when climbing stairs and occasional chest pains. Clark took care of her after the surgery.

"She went back for her post-surgery visits and was told everything is completely healed up. They told her they want to see her in five years, so that's a good sign," Clark said.

The procedure lasted almost two hours, though it seemed much longer to Clark as he waited for the results.

"It was pretty terrifying," he said. "Believe me, I wished it was me in there instead of her. I've had to deal with a little pain over the course of time, and a little bit more would have been fine for her not to have that operation. But she's doing good now."

Davis bulks up

Catcher Tommy Davis, in camp as a non-roster player, is barely recognizable in the batting cage because he's added so much muscle to his 6-foot-1 frame.

"I got into a pretty good weight program with a buddy of mine back home," said Davis, who resides in Semmes, Ala. "We worked out hard five days a week and tried to put on weight and get stronger. Hopefully, it'll pay off. It was just a standard weight program with benching and curling and leg work. I feel a lot stronger. Everything feels good right now."

Davis, who appeared in five games with the Orioles in May before being removed from the 40-man roster, will get a look at first base this spring. He also is expected to take some grounders at third.

"I've heard that but I haven't been told directly," he said. "I was just told, `Don't forget your first baseman's mitt,' which I haven't."

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