As soon as it was announced that Earl Weaver was returning to manage the Baltimore Orioles, it was widely assumed that change would mean the resurgence of young switch-hitting outfielders Mike Young and John Shelby.
With Larry Sheets hitting too well to be moved from designated hitter, and Jim Dwyer playing well in left field, Young -- who hit 17 homers last year as a rookie -- mostly sat.
Shelby played, but only at Rochester, N.Y., with the club's Class AAA team, before being called up near the end of Joe Altobelli's tenure. "I didn't even think of getting called up to Baltimore while I was in Rochester," Shelby said. "I didn't think about it at all. I thought I'd be there the whole year."
Shelby and Young haven't displaced anybody yet in the starting lineup. But they both start on occasion, as they did yesterday against the Kansas City Royals -- Shelby in right field for Lee Lacy, who had a slightly pulled groin muscle, and Young as the designated hitter. Each had two hits.
The two give Weaver the options he wants late in close games. They give him almost maximum flexibility because: they are fast; as switch hitters they give him the upper hand when opposing managers go to the bullpen; and both have decent power.
Shelby, after hitting two late-inning home runs in his first three at bats after being called up, started two of the three games in a recent series in Milwaukee -- once to give Fred Lynn a rest in center, and then to give Lee Lacy a rest in right. Shelby went four for 10 in the two starts and had a .306 average going into yesterday's game.
It didn't take Weaver long to get Young into the lineup, either. Young has been playing primarily as a designated hitter the last eight weeks, facing primarily left-handers. He started twice last week.
"I know it's beneficial to them and to me to get them in there as often as possible," Weaver said. "There's too much wear and tear for people to play 162 games. To me, that's a slump builder."
Young, who spoke openly of his respect for Altobelli, expected he might play more for Weaver. "At least I had liked to think so," Young said. "From all I had heard, Earl didn't want John and me to sit too much, or too long.
"It takes a toll, especially on young players (Young is 25, Shelby 27). I understood why I couldn't play more; you couldn't just take Dwyer and Sheets out. I'm not one to complain.
"I had gotten used to playing pretty regularly last year (401 at bats). But I also wanted to be prepared to go with whatever they were offering. You knew there'd be some changes when Earl came."
Shelby's previous success under Weaver, in 1982, led him to think his playing time might increase.
"There's no doubt I'd like to play every day," he said. "But I guess I can pinch hit from the left or right, pinch run, come in and play defense. I heard people saying they thought I'd play more with Earl."
Shelby, who came up five weeks ago when Dan Ford went on the disabled list, says he thinks the two home runs he hit after first being called up "were a bit overplayed. I'm not really a home run hitter."
But Weaver does think he's a good enough contact hitter to bat leadoff at times, which would alow Lacy to hit in the No. 2 spot. Shelby has a lot of the qualities found in a good leadoff man. "He's got everything but one -- he should walk more," Weaver said.
He said Shelby "was hitting real well in Rochester (over .280) when we called him up. I think that confidence carried over, and the home runs certainly helped further."