CLEVELAND -- It had to be sweet, even if Randy "Moose" Milligan is telling the truth when he insists that he harbors no hard feelings toward the Orioles organization.
Milligan had gone from Baltimore to Cincinnati to Cleveland over the past nine months, but he found himself in perfect position to deliver a severe blow to the Orioles' flagging pennant hopes.
He bounced a bad-hop single over the head of shortstop Cal Ripken to drive home the two runs that brought the Indians from behind in the opener of a three-game series at Cleveland Stadium last night. He also had a long double in three at-bats as the Indians scored a 6-4 victory that dropped the Orioles 5 1/2 games out of first place.
Sweet revenge? It had to be, but Milligan claims that he has not spent one minute wishing ill upon the club that cut him loose last winter.
"Not one," he said. "I've always loved the city of Baltimore, though I was a little sad when they were a half-game out. I was afraid they were going to win it without me."
There was that smile again -- the one that endeared him to Baltimore fans as much as his solid on-base average and resilient spirit. Milligan obviously was enjoying himself last night.
"I enjoyed playing against all my old friends over there. It was a lot of fun. But extra incentive? I try to go out there and beat everybody."
This should be I-told-you-so time. Milligan has had a pretty good season, hitting a combined .298 for the Cincinnati Reds and Indians. He is batting .439 since the Indians sent outfielder Thomas Howard across Ohio to acquire him Aug. 17.
The Orioles released Milligan in December on the assumption that Glenn Davis and David Segui would provide sufficient depth at first base. Davis didn't hold up, and the club has used a variety of players to back up Segui.
Not that it has been a big problem. Segui is batting .279 with nine home runs and 56 RBI. Milligan probably would not have played ahead of him if he had stayed, but he told the club in January that he was willing to play behind Segui if it would keep him in Baltimore.
"The last thing I told them was, 'Are you sure you really want to do this?' " Milligan said. "I told them, 'I know that Glenn is going to have some problems. I have no problem playing behind David.' But they said, no, this is the way they wanted to go. I was the odd man out."
Milligan has gotten used to that. He appeared to have earned a full-time job at first base after he hit 20 home runs for the Orioles in 1990, but the club went out the following winter and acquired Davis for three top prospects.
In 1991, Milligan arrived at spring training as more of an outfield candidate, but the freak neck injury suffered by Davis eventually put Milligan back at first base for most of the season. He hit 16 home runs and had 70 RBI, but arrived in camp last year as an understudy again. Then Davis suffered a relapse early in the season, and Milligan was back in the starting lineup.
His luck held after the Reds signed him to back up Hal Morris at first base this year. Morris separated his shoulder in a spring-training brawl, and Milligan was in the right place at the right time again. He played regularly and produced well during the first half, but his playing time diminished dramatically after Morris returned to the lineup.
There is no bitterness toward the Reds, either, only disappointment that a promising team fell on hard times and did not live up to expectations.
"That was rough," Milligan said. "I've never been sadder. In Cincinnati, I really thought we had the best squad in baseball."
Now, he is playing out the year on a youthful Indians team that also has had more than its share of bad fortune this year, but Milligan seems to be enjoying his stay. He has been reunited with former Orioles teammates Sam Horn, Bob Milacki and Jose Mesa in Cleveland, and apparently has made a good impression.
"Actually, they want to sign me for next year," Milligan said. "I see a lot of positive things here."
He will be eligible for free agency at the end of the year if the Indians don't offer him a contract. There would be nothing keeping the Orioles from asking him back, but that seems unlikely. The club may try to hook a bigger fish in the free-agent market this year.
Milligan just laughed again. He's just waiting to see what happens next.