SARASOTA, Fla. -- The first few days of spring workouts are supposed to be devoted to pitchers and catchers, but the Baltimore Orioles already have set to work on their defensive alignment.
The recent acquisition of Glenn Davis has made it very crowded around first base, so a couple of other first basemen spent yesterday getting acclimated to the outfield.
Randy Milligan, who thought he had a firm hold on the first-base job after a 20-homer season, took flyballs from coach Curt Motton. Promising David Segui, who originally figured to back up Milligan at first, was working right beside him.
"My first 1 1/2 years in the minor leagues, I played there every day," Milligan said, "but that was a long time ago -- nine years."
He admits that the idea of returning to the outfield didn't appeal to him at first. The Davis deal left him unsure of his place on the team and -- at times -- a little depressed, but he resolved to come to spring training with an open mind.
"I just don't want to go out there with a negative attitude," he said. "You can't play like that. I'm going out there with the attitude that this can be a really positive thing for my career."
Manager Frank Robinson took Milligan aside over the weekend and officially asked him to consider the move, but it had been a matter of strong speculation since the day that Davis arrived in Baltimore.
"My initial reaction to the trade was relief," Milligan said. "I was staying in Baltimore. My next reaction was: 'I think I'm going to be changing positions. Where am I going to play?'
"There were times when I was really down about the whole thing. I didn't want to change positions. Then I started thinking about the whole picture. If I can pull this off, it could be a really positive thing."
If Milligan proves to be a solid outfielder, he'll get a lot of playing time in left field and the club will get a chance to use all its big right-handed run-producers in the same lineup. If not, he'll probably play a little at first base and a lot at designated hitter.
"If I can learn a new position, I'lljust be that much more valuable to a team -- to this team," he said. "It can open up a lot of things for everybody else."
It would leave Robinson free to construct a lineup that includes Cal Ripken, Davis, Dwight Evans and Milligan at the heart of the batting order. The team that could not fill the run-production gap in 1990 could have power to spare this year.
Segui provides a second option. He is one of the most promising young hitters in the organization, and he doesn't figure to show up in the first-base picture for at least another year or two.
He feels he has to adapt to the outfield if he is to stay with the major-league club. He appeared in 40 games last year, most of them when Milligan was injured the final two months of the season.
"If this is going to help me stay in the big leagues, I'm all for it," Segui said. "I played some outfield in the minor leagues and some in college. I've got some work to do out there. I'm not real sharp at it, but I'm confident that I can play out there."
Robinson said at the outset thathe would not force anyone to change positions, but he met with no resistance from Segui and Milligan. Even Davis has said he will move to the outfield if it will help the club, though it seems unlikely he'll be asked to leave first base.
"That's the attitude we've had around here the last three years," Robinson said. "Whatever it takes. Whatever you want me to do. It makes it easier for me."
No firm conclusions will be drawn for several weeks. Robinson is not depending on any of them to play regularly in the outfield until he has strong evidence that it would not be a defensive disaster.
The outfield experiment might also include another player before it's over. Shortstop Juan Bell is working out at second base at the moment, but Robinson said he'll probably get some instruction in the outfield later in the spring as part of the club's attempt to turn him into the ultimate utility man.
"We might work him out there later," Robinson said. "I don't want to give him too much to think about right now. The more positions he can play, the more valuable he'll be. If he can do it, we won't have to carry an extra outfielder."