Oates denies team giving up on Davis Full-time status may be in doubt


If it isn't one rumor, it's another. The Orioles just got done debunking the myth of the Fred McGriff deal, and yesterday manager Johnny Oates was testily dismissing speculation that the club was close to giving up on Glenn Davis.

Davis is in the second year of a two-year contract worth $6.665 million, about half of which has yet to be paid. The club cannot get out from under that obligation, so there is no reason to think club officials are thinking about releasing him to make room for another player.

"I don't see any chance of that happening," Oates said. "We have not even talked about that. Sometimes, it gets to be ridiculous. He's playing first base for us. That hasn't even crossed my mind. What it is is gossip."

It is not unreasonable, however, to wonder how long Davis will be considered a full-time player. He has been out of the starting lineup three of the past five games, even though the club is trying to fill the run-production gap left by the injuries to Mike Devereaux and Harold Baines.

David Segui was at first base again last night and Triple-A call-up Mark Leonard made his second consecutive start in the cleanup spot as the designated hitter. Oates said Davis may return against Boston Red Sox right-hander Roger Clemens tonight. In the meantime, Leonard is getting an audition under fire.

"We're just giving him a chance to play," Oates said of Leonard, who drove in the winning run in last night's 3-2 victory with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly. "He's left-handed. He is known for his bat. We're going to give him a chance. It's a good opportunity to see what these guys can do."

Easler ejected

Red Sox hitting coach Mike Easler was ejected in the seventh inning last night by plate umpire Rich Garcia. Easler apparently shouted something at Garcia after right fielder Bob Zupcic was called out on strikes.

Pennington's first save

Left-hander Brad Pennington came into a pressure-packed situation last night and retired two batters to record his first major-league save. It also was the first save by an Orioles left-hander since Mike Flanagan was in a setup role in 1991.

"When Johnny gave me the ball, he said to throw it hard and go get them," Pennington said. "I was pumped up -- maybe a little too pumped up. When I was 1-2 on [Mo] Vaughn, I tried to throw the ball through everything."

Spring site?

The Orioles continue to keep their eyes and ears open for spring training possibilities, and there are scenarios emerging all the time.

The latest object of speculation is Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., where the Orioles played a few home games during their spring bus tour of 1991. There are rumors the Chicago White Sox will move out of the new facility in favor of a new complex in Arizona. If that happens, the Orioles would be an obvious choice to take their place.

Port on Buford

Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Port isn't surprised to see Damon Buford performing well at the major-league level. Port saw a lot of the outfielder in the Arizona Fall League, of which Port was president until he accepted a job as right-hand man to Red Sox GM Lou Gorman.

"Being the president of the league, I had to be objective," Port said, "but he certainly stood out."

Port couldn't help but throw in a lighthearted plug for the fledgling league: "His performance obviously was enhanced in a contributory way by playing in the fall league."

McDonald on schedule

Right-hander Ben McDonald apparently has shaken off the effects of the line drive that hit him on the right heel in his last start. He'll take the mound on schedule tonight to face Clemens.

McDonald and left-hander Arthur Rhodes both were bruised by hard shots back through the box during the four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, but neither is expected to miss any time.

Oates on McLemore

Oates said he is not surprised by the way Mark McLemore has been swinging the bat the first five weeks of the season, even though McLemore was not considered an offensive threat earlier in his career.

"I've always thought he could play," Oates said. "I think he was perceived by the Angels as a guy who should keep the ball on the ground and use his speed, but [coach] Greg Biagini has worked with him on driving the ball. Greg deserves a lot of credit."

McLemore had two more hits last night, improving his average to .321.

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