Spring has been pain for Orioles


SARASOTA, Fla. -- If you're drawing the conclusion that not everything is going exactly as planned for the Orioles this spring training, go to the head of the class.

Manager Frank Robinson insists there is no cause for alarm, pointing out the proceedings are still in the preliminary stage, but different kinks keep cropping up. The latest one hit Glenn Davis in the neck during his only at-bat in last night's 7-2 loss to the Texas Rangers.

The first baseman was removed from the game as much for precaution as anything else. But the twinge Davis felt seemed like a reminder of the pebbles that already have fallen in the early stages of a spring schedule that calls for 33 games, 31 of them scattered around southern Florida.

First Dwight Evans put too much stress on his knee during the early workouts. Then Randy Milligan jammed an ankle in the second inning of the first exhibition game. Those two represent two-thirds of the Orioles' potential Opening Day outfield, even though Milligan has never played the position in the big leagues and Evans has not filled a role other than designated hitter in more than a year.

Davis is not expected to miss more than one game -- he wasn't scheduled to make the trip to Winter Haven today anyhow -- but that was also the original forecast on Milligan.

But Robinson says it's too early to be concerned about such irritations. There will be plenty of time to get everybody the required playing time during the exhibition season.

"I don't have a certain number of at-bats necessary to get them ready," said Robinson. "It won't be a problem getting them the necessary time.

"We'll just do it," Robinson explained when asked how he'll juggle his lineup. "It may be at the expense of somebody who is marginal, but they'll have enough time."

It is Robinson's intention to use Milligan in the outfield in "B" squad games Friday and Saturday. He then will work Milligan back into the regular lineup to continue the outfield experiment that was interrupted almost before it got started.

As for Evans, Robinson says there is no rush to get him back into the outfield. "I'll wait until he tells me he's ready to do it," said Robinson. "I haven't even talked to him about it yet."

Robinson dismisses any notion that Evans, 40, has been held back for pressing physical reasons. "It is my doing," said the manager. "It's the same as with [Gregg] Olson. That's me. It was my decision to hold him back, and it's the same with Evans."

Evans and Olson both made their exhibition debuts last night, with each getting only enough activity to get a feel for game conditions. Evans flied out and struck out in two appearances as the designated hitter, and Olson pitched one scoreless inning, facing the minimum of three batters.

"Short, sweet and quick," was Olson's appraisal of his initial effort. He is on a program that calls for only limited appearances during spring training in an effort to have him fresh for the start of the season.

It is the same approach Robinson says he will use with Evans. "As far as I'm concerned he doesn't have to play in the field until the last 10 days or two weeks," said Robinson. "That's not to say he won't do it before then, but I don't think it's necessary."

Because of the Orioles' unusual spring training itinerary that requires almost constant travel, Robinson said he will pick his spots with Evans, who missed much of last season with a bad back. "I'll try to keep him away from bus trips, especially the long ones," said Robinson.

"You can't force these things," he said of the setbacks thus far. "You always like to think you can go through without anything, but you know it's impossible.

"If it's going to be, let it be early -- get it out of the way, and get the guys back out there," said Robinson.

He seems determined to plot a patient course, with the stabilization of the pitching staff the main priority.

Along those lines he got mixed results last night as Jeff Ballard and Olson earned favorable reviews, and Bob Milacki gave up six runs in three innings. "He's working on a new delivery, and he hasn't quite got it yet," Robinson said of Milacki, who struggled with his control and had to endure a five-run fifth inning, the first of three he pitched.

The game marked the end of the second round for the five projected starters -- Ben McDonald, Jose Mesa, Dave Johnson, Ballard and Milacki. Beginning with the next round, Robinson has said he will start to formulate opinions and the leading candidates for the rotation will dictate their own pace.

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