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At long last, Davis, Evans get together


TORONTO -- One, at the peak of his career, is trying to re-establish himself as an impact player. The other, with his most productive years behind him, is adjusting to a role that could both limit and extend his playing time.

Both figured to be key parts of the offensive realignment that was to key the rejuvenation of their new team. For different, but related, reasons neither has been able to fulfill the lofty ambitions of the spring.

Other than a desire to finish 1991 on a positive note, about the only thing Glenn Davis and Dwight Evans have in common right now is six home runs. The fact that they both reached that figure last night is just another of baseball's little ironies.

Since returning from a stint of almost four months on the disabled list, Davis has struggled for the most part to regain his timing and gain a knowledge of the American League. During the corresponding period of time, Evans' production has increased while his playing time has diminished.

Last night the two locked bats to figure in all of the scoring as the Orioles registered an impressive and satisfying 8-4 win over the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays. Davis had three hits, scored three runs and drove in two. Evans had four hits, including a clinching three-run homer in the seventh, and set up the other three runs.

"I've been struggling, trying to do too much and being my own worst enemy," said Davis, obtained last winter in a bold trade with the Houston Astros. "It's like I have to learn all over again."

And, in a way, that's exactly what he's had to do. "I'm still not used to the [American League] parks," he said. "I don't know these [opposing] guys, or what they throw. I don't even know all their names.

"I know I've had to re-train my muscles [because of the neck and shoulder injury that disabled him], but in some ways I've got to re-train my mind, too. Yesterday [Monday, when he went 0-for-5] was embarrassing to me," said Davis. "It is encouraging to see that adjustments will come and to help us win a game.

"Nobody over here really knows what I can do. They've never seen me play. The fans have been very supportive of me through my injury. It's important to me to show them what I can do. It's important to show the baseball world that I can still play."

Last night was Davis' 14th straight game since coming off the disabled list Aug. 19. It was also the first time he had played first base in back-to-back games. Until now he had alternated with Randy Milligan, whose tender ankle kept him in the DH slot last night.

There's no doubt that, like most National Leaguers coming into the AL, it is taking Davis time to adjust to the role of designated hitter. "It gives you a lot of time to think about things, and I've had a lot to think about," said Davis. "But that's just something I have to adjust to -- I'm not complaining about it."

Evans knows all about the adjustment it takes to DH, having done it exclusively last year after spending virtually all of his career in rightfield. Now, he's been cast in the role of a bit player, especially since the return of Davis.

"There's no question that, except for the way [Chito] Martinez and [Joe] Orsulak have played, Dwight would've played more," said manager John Oates. "He's played extremely well in the role he's had since Davis came off the disabled list. He's made the most of the few at-bats he's had. He's responded well in limited action.

"I don't mean to negotiate his contract, but I'm on record as saying I think Dwight Evans can be a valuable piece of property for the Baltimore Orioles next year -- either as an outfielder, DH or part-time player."

Though he feels fit enough to play on a regular basis, Evans is amenable to whatever role he's assigned. "I haven't felt this good physically in probably two years," said Evans. "I feel great right now. I still feel I can contribute."

It was while Evans was on the disabled list with an Achilles' injury that Martinez got an opportunity to play rightfield. And the rookie doesn't have a bigger booster than Evans.

"He's got a great swing and he's done a good job," Evans said of Martinez. "I've heard that people said he couldn't play the outfield, but I think he's a good outfielder and he has a great arm. He's got some talent and he deserves a chance to play.

"They have kind of hinted that they want me to play a different role, and I can accept that."

When the season started, then-manager Frank Robinson said he would take the 13 home runs and 63 RBIs Evans had a year ago and consider anything above those numbers a bonus. Evans won't come close, but perhaps only because his injury opened a door for Martinez.

Last year Evans had 445 at-bats for the Red Sox. This year he has six home runs and 35 RBIs in only 211 at-bats. That pace

projected over 445 at-bats would produce 13 home runs and 74 RBIs.

Those numbers mean nothing now, because the Orioles' quick fall in the AL East has dictated a reduction in Evans' playing time, if not his production. He has played in only seven of the last 20 games, but has been remarkably effective as a pinch-hitter. He is 6-for-9 with two walks in his last 11 appearances in that role, and 9-for-18 overall, the most pinch-hits by an Oriole since Jim Dwyer had that many in 1986.

Evans doesn't figure to get much more than 250 at-bats this year, while Davis most likely will finish around the 200 mark. That's about 600 less than the Orioles figured at the start of the season.

"You can't worry or think about yesterday," said Oates. "I don't. At least I try not to.

"But I'll tell you that's a pretty good 3-4-5-6 [Cal Ripken, Davis, Milligan and Evans] lineup when they're all healthy," he added. "It might be a little top-heavy righthanded, but they can do some damage."

Since he doesn't like to dwell on the past, it can only be presumed that Oates was thinking about what might yet be -- and not what could have been.

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