MINNEAPOLIS -- Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe didn't have any trouble finding the positive side of the injury that will keep center fielder Mike Devereaux sidelined for the next five to six weeks.
"There are a couple of ways to approach it," Sutcliffe said. "In 1989, we had the kind of thing happen [with the Chicago Cubs]. When Andre Dawson went down, it really made us a better club. Everybody focused more. We realized that the little things were going to be more important to us. The pitching got better.
"Losing Dawson was devastating, but Lloyd McClendon came up and hit the first pitch after he flew into town for a three-run
homer. That sort of set the tone."
The Cubs went on to win the National League East title but lost in the playoffs to the San Francisco Giants. The Orioles were expected to compete for the division title this year, but a slow start and Devereaux's mishap have left the club's claim to contention very much in doubt.
"Losing Devereaux is the same kind of thing," Sutcliffe said. "That's a lot of RBI and defensive plays that we've got to make up. But it's not like [Damon] Buford has to come in and make up for it all by himself. Everybody has to do his part. Seven weeks later, when Dawson returned, we were right in the thick of the race, and he put us over the hump."
Sutcliffe hopes to see the same kind of response in this situation, but he said that it isn't going to happen by accident.
"There's something that each of us can do to take the pressure off of the loss of Devo," he said. "There are a lot of ways for this club to play better -- myself included. There's not one guy or position that you can focus on."
Devereaux rides along
Devereaux was under no obligation to join the team on the six-game trip to Minnesota and Toronto, but he opted to accompany the team even though he has been told to do nothing physical for at least a week.
"I came because I don't know what I would have done with myself at home," he said. "Baseball is my life. I just feel more comfortable being here at the ballpark."
He'll be able to begin some very light exercise after the club returns to Baltimore next week, but it will be at least three weeks before he can begin working toward his return to the Orioles lineup.
"They say six weeks," he said. "That's seems pretty long, but I don't want to come back too soon and make things worse. We'll just go with how it feels."
McLemore in left?
Manager Johnny Oates isn't saying how he'll configure his outfield when Buford is not in the lineup, but he said he would have no reservations about sending utility player Mark McLemore to left if necessary.
"None whatsoever," Oates said. "That's where he started this spring. There's no doubt in my mind that he can play left field, but so can [Jack] Voigt, [Sherman] Obando and [David] Segui."
Segui has not appeared in the outfield this year and doesn't figure to get much playing time out there now that McLemore is playing regularly.
The comparison between the loss of Devereaux this year and the injury to catcher Chris Hoiles last year did not get any endorsement from Oates.
"You're talking about the difference between 107 RBI and 40 RBI," Oates said. "That's a big difference. We missed Chris last year and we're going to miss Devo this year, but we're not the first club to lose an important player to injury. We've just got to pull up our bootstraps and go after it."