It meant going from the top of the baseball spectrum to the bottom, but Mike Devereaux was both happy and relieved.
Convinced that he had little or no chance to win a regular outfield job with the World Series champion Dodgers, Devereaux welcomed the trade Saturday that sent him to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Mike Morgan.
The Orioles had the worst record in the major leagues last season, but Devereaux at least will get a shot at full-time employment. Beyond that, he can finally put his mind at ease after suffering through trade rumors for three months.
“It takes a big load off my mind,” Devereaux said. “Now that this is over, I can concentrate on baseball. I’d like to be playing in L.A., but I just want to be playing in the major leagues.”
Morgan, meanwhile, said at the Orioles’ training camp in Miami that he was glad to be with a winner after pitching for losers in Seattle and Baltimore.
“I was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to be a starter with the Orioles, but I’m excited about going to a winning environment,” Morgan said. “Maybe I can start winning now.”
Morgan, 29, a right-hander, was born in Tulare, Calif., raised in Las Vegas and now lives in Ogden, Utah. He has spent eight seasons in the majors in a career that began at Oakland in 1978.
His lifetime big league record is 34-68, including 1-6 last year, but he was recommended highly by Dodger scout Phil Regan, his former pitching coach with the Mariners.
Although Morgan has started 119 of the 157 games he has pitched in the majors, Oriole Manager Frank Robinson had planned to use him in relief this season. Morgan prefers to start, but whether Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda accommodates him will depend on other factors relating to the team’s pitching staff.
“We’ll have to see what happens,” Lasorda said. “I can’t tell you anything about the guy because I’ve never seen him. I wouldn’t know him if he walked in right now.’
The trade was announced after the Dodgers’ 13-3 exhibition loss to the Houston Astros. The deal was made after Dodger physician Frank Jobe examined Morgan’s right foot. Morgan underwent surgery last Aug. 18 for an abnormal bone growth on his big toe, and Jobe found that he had fully recovered.
Morgan said of his physical condition: “Right now I’m healthy. My foot is no problem. I’m probably the only guy who ices his foot after a game instead of his elbow.”
Morgan’s career earned-run average is 4.90. His only winning season was in 1981, when he had an 8-7 record and a career-low 4.37 ERA. His ERA last season was 5.43.
Still, Fred Claire, the Dodgers’ executive vice president, was enthusiastic about the deal.
“We feel that he has an outstanding arm and major league ability,” Claire said.’
Devereaux, who will be 26 on April 10, was once regarded as one of the Dodgers’ top prospects. But he hit only .222 and .116 in his limited playing time the last two years. With Kirk Gibson, John Shelby and Mike Marshall starting in the outfield and Mike Davis and Franklin Stubbs available as backups, he was considered expendable.
“I could see the opportunity to play every day wasn’t going to come soon,” Devereaux said. “It’s hard to say I didn’t get a shot, but I would have liked to play more than I did.”
Trade speculation involving Devereaux began when the Dodgers were negotiating the swap that brought first baseman Eddie Murray from the Orioles on Dec. 4.
“I thought I was in that deal,” Devereaux said. “When I wasn’t (pitchers Brian Holton and Ken Howell and shortstop Juan Bell went to Baltimore), I started hearing about this one. It was a little distracting.”
Claire said of Devereaux, “He has a good chance to have a long major league career, and I hope he does.”
Lasorda added: “It’s hard to give up a person of the caliber of Mike Devereaux. Sometimes you have to trade guys you think the world of.”
Cesar Cedeno, 38, is attempting a comeback with the Astros after what was supposedly a final fling in the Mexican League last season.
Cedeno, who broke in with the Astros in 1970, drove in two runs with a triple, but obviously had lost his once-blinding speed. He was thrown out on a grounder to deep short that he would have beaten out easily in his prime.
Left-hander Ricky Horton, who had been impressive his first two times out, gave up three runs in a one-inning stint. His problems were minimal, though, compared with those of nonroster lefty Dan Scarpetta, who was bombed for six runs in a nine-run sixth inning.
Houston catcher Trent Hubbard entered the game as a pinch-runner in the sixth and wound up the inning with two runs batted in. He doubled after the Astros had batted around.
“Every ball they hit had eyes,” Lasorda said.