Davis says return 'depends on how I feel' Starting chemotherapy, Oriole steps back from mid-August 'deadline'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Still saying he will again play baseball, Orioles outfielder Eric Davis yesterday backed away from giving a timetable for his return due to the uncertain effects of chemotherapy that he will begin receiving Wednesday.

Davis left open the possibility that he may not return until next season but emphasized his focus is on getting healthy then restarting his career.

Having returned last month to his Woodland Hills, Calif., home, Davis said his rehabilitation and eventual return "depends on how I feel and how my body adapts to the chemotherapy. But I've never thought twice about coming back. It's just a matter of whether I come back this year or next year."

Davis will start taking chemotherapy at the UCLA School of Medicine under the supervision of Dr. William Isacoff. The chemotherapy will be administered once a week for six weeks in the form of pills and injections. After two weeks off, the process will repeat itself a second and then a third time, extending through the end of the year. The form of chemotherapy is considered a mild variety.

"It's really going to be determined by how I feel after I take the chemo for a little while. What I can do, I can do," Davis said during a phone interview yesterday afternoon.

Davis, 35, recently began walking on a treadmill. He has yet to perform twisting exercises because of residual pain stemming from June 13 surgery to remove a cancerous mass along with one-third of his colon. The determined enthusiasm he exhibited immediately after surgery is now tempered by what lies before him.

Said Davis: "By me being young and in good shape, they don't see me having any major reaction to the treatments being prescribed for me. And I don't see any. But you can't predict the future. Once I get into it and see what I can do and what I can't do, then I can make an assessment."

Although attending doctors have suggested he might begin swinging a bat within two weeks, Davis downplayed their predictions. "The doctors can't tell me when I can start swinging," Davis said. "I'll make the assessment of when I can start swinging based on how I feel. With my incisions, there is still a little pain there. I'm still not twisting and doing stuff like that.

"No one will know that better than I will. They're not feeling what I'm feeling. They're not taking chemo. I am. I value their opinion wholeheartedly, but they might say two weeks, I might say three weeks. We have to get away from what the doctors say compared to how I feel as far as when I will be able to start swinging a bat."

Davis has told associates he would like to rejoin the club in Anaheim, Calif., on Aug. 8 when it makes its West Coast swing, but yesterday he distanced himself from any firm plan.

"I wouldn't say I'm shooting for sometime in August and then rush myself to get to that date. That wouldn't be better for me. It would be like I'm trying to meet a deadline," Davis said.

"From what I hear from the doctors, I shouldn't try to overexert myself. When you give timetables, it's like you have to push yourself to another level to try to reach them. When I get close, I'll say, 'I'm looking at a week from now' or 'I'm looking at two weeks from now.' Being this far away I can't say. I can speculate, but I'm not into speculation."

Davis took his time before deciding to accept chemotherapy, saying he conducted "a lot of research and a lot of phone calls." However, the advice he received in Los Angeles matched what he had been told by doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital: Chemotherapy offers him the best chance of recovery without a recurrence.

Davis said doctors cited the size of the 3 1/2 -inch cancerous mass removed from his colon as a major reason for him to undergo the aftercare.

Former major-leaguer Andre Dawson made an especially strong impression on Davis when the two spoke recently.

"His main concern was the longevity," Davis said, "making sure I made decisions that allow me to watch my kids grow up and hopefully see their kids."

Davis has two daughters, Erica, who turns 11 today, and Sacha, who celebrated her seventh birthday Friday.

Davis said he has been contacted by scores of athletes, doctors and fans, some of whom have offered remedies involving "herbs and roots."

Among the "tremendous list" of those who have called, Davis cited Tony Perez, Dusty Baker, Barry Bonds, Albert Belle, Barry Larkin, Darryl Strawberry and last year's Cincinnati Reds.

"That in itself was an emotional uplift for me," he said. "To know when there are times of trials and tribulations there are people that really care, that helped me more than anything."

Davis' most emotional recollections were of his returning to the Orioles' clubhouse for a brief meeting with teammates June 26. He had maintained contact with some, including Tony Tarasco, Jeffrey Hammonds and Lenny Webster, but the face-to-face opportunity remains most vivid.

"It was really an emotional lift for me to be able to walk into that clubhouse to see all my teammates. It was a vote of confidence for them to see me walk into the clubhouse," said Davis.

"They saw I wasn't down and I wasn't going to let it beat me. And I saw how glad they were to see me walk through the door. It was like we helped each other."

Pub Date: 7/13/97

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