At 20, he's the youngest player in the major leagues and he may have the best name: Storm Davis.
That, however, isn't what delights the Baltimore Orioles.
Just when the Orioles were beginning to think that their farm system had begun to look barren, especially when the crop in question was pitching, along comes a 6-foot-4 right-hander who plants the same seed of an idea in every mind.
"He looks like a young Jim Palmer," said Ray Miller, the Orioles' pitching coach. "He's throwing every fast ball 90-91 miles an hour. His hook drops off the table. And he's learning a slider.
"He throws like Palmer, right over the top. He even shags (fungo) flies like Palmer, throwing 'em back in with that fluid, strong motion . . . Maybe more important, he's got control, he's poised and he's smart. Go ahead and say it: he's for real."
"At first, when I signed with the Orioles, I was compared to Jim (Palmer) a lot and I shied away from that," said Davis, who has mastered the confident but not quite cocky attitude that old baseball heads love. "But I'm used to it now and I guess I've accepted it."
In 21 innings over eight games, Davis has a 1.27 ERA, has issued just two walks while striking out 12 and allowing 16 hits.
On the mound, Davis, whose father is a high school baseball and football coach, appears the almost perfect model of a young pitcher. He works so fast that his toe seldom leaves the rubber. Strike follows strike, many on the edges of the plate. At 207 pounds, he looks more than willing to intimidate hitters.
Two of every three pitches, Davis comes with the fast ball that has been measured by radar as identical to Tim Stoddard's best. That third pitch is a curve that snaps a foot. Best of all, for the time being at least, Davis doesn't seem to know what it means to fall behind in a count or show timidity.
With a franchise that knows and appreciates pitching perhaps more than any other, Davis has made a bigger ripple sooner within the organization than Mike Flanagan, Dennis Martinez, Scott McGregor, Sammy Stewart or, well, anybody since Palmer, who pitched a shutout against Sandy Koufax in the World Series of 1966 at 20.
That's a quantum leap for a player who, four months ago, came to spring training as just one of the pack, a guy with a 27-26 record and a 3.55 ERA in three minor league seasons.
But, since then, he has:
Pitched up a storm,
Sent out storm warnings, or,
Stormed to the front.
"He just throws the hell out of the ball every time we give it to him," said Manager Earl Weaver. "He was great every time in spring training. He's been great every time up here--fast ball over 90, great curve ball, complete control of everything, amazing poise. He's going to add something for us in the second half."
"A little bit impressive?" said Cy Young winner Flanagan of Davis. "I've never seen him throw bad. You always hear that a young pitcher 'has a lot of poise,' but this kid really does."
Davis was in Class AA in '81 and w called up to the Orioles in the last week of April, after just a few days of AAA experience.
"I was warming up," recalled Davis, "and, all of a sudden, I realized I was the last pitcher left. I said to Elrod Hendricks (the bullpen coach), 'I could be in there.' Elrod looked out at the field and he said, 'Kid, you are in there.' "
The bases were full of defending division-champion Oakland A's. Nobody out, top of the ninth inning, score tied. Top of the order up--Rickey Henderson, Dwayne Murphy and Tony Armas. Billy Martin screaming to eat this punk kid alive.
"I was nervous walking in," recalled Davis, "but as soon as I stepped on the infield grass, I was all right."
"Yeah, he was all right," recalled Miller. "He allowed one hit, but got three outs on two fly outs and a strikeout. What people remember is that a couple of runs scored on the flies and we lost. What we remember is the way he went after 'em, threw strikes, got 'em all out, then walked off like he'd been in that spot all his life.
"I told Earl, 'I think maybe we got one.' "
Davis, married since he was 18 and a high school legend in Jacksonville, Fla., where he struck out 496 in 278 innings with a 0.45 ERA while also starring in football and basketball, seemed to take all this with little excitement.
"I don't get nervous at all," he said. "I've been blessed with a good arm and, right now, I've got pinpoint control. If I can black out the corners with the fast ball and throw the curve for strikes . . .
"When I go out there, I know Earl has confidence in me. I can understand he wouldn't want to use a rookie if he couldn't throw strikes, but I've always pitched like this; worked fast, had good control. I watched Jim Palmer and Steve Carlton on TV and modeled myself, the quick tempo of the game, from them."
"I'm getting educated," Davis said. "I've been a starter all my life, but I've adjusted to the bullpen. You've got to serve your time in this organization. You've got to sit your one, two, maybe three years and wait for your chance, like all the others did. I respect that."
All of this brings us, of course, to the most important point about Davis. Where in the world did he get the name, "Storm"?
The official family story is that although the birth certificate name is George Davis Jr., the boy was actually being called Storm before he was born. His mother, who is a radio talk-show host in Jacksonville, was reading a book featuring a character named "Dr. Storm" and wanted her boy to have the same qualities as this worthy.
"This Dr. Storm was a medical doctor who was a quiet guy and just went about doing his job. I'm like that," said Davis. "In other ways, the character was different from me--a leader in his field, I guess you'd say, and I think he found some magical cure that made everybody well."
Yes, yes, sort of like a young pitcher who comes along just in time to cure all the ills of the Baltimore pitching staff.
How do the Orioles react to this precocious person with the glamorous name?
"We all call him 'George,' " said Flanagan. "Just to tick him off."