PEORIA, Ariz. - Done with his first spring appearance, a ninth-inning save of the Seattle Mariners' 3-2 win against the Padres, Scott Davison paused in front of the right-field stands on his route to the clubhouse.
He paused to sign every ball and scrap of paper thrust at him by fans mostly young, but some older.
Confident though he is, Davison said he never once thought, "Save this, kid, it'll be worth something someday."
"Heck, no," said Davison, who threw 93 mph fastballs at a trio of San Diego batters, striking out two. "I always think they're wasting their time, although I'm glad to sign for them if that's what they want. They all call me Davis, anyway. When I drive out the gate I never know whether to stop and sign. I don't want to appear rude, but I'd feel stupid if I stopped and nobody wanted my autograph."
Considering where he was this time two years ago, he relishes this situation. His predicament then, having earlier been released by the Montreal Expos as an infielder in training camp 1992, was what to do with his life.
He was driving a UPS truck, helping coach prep ball at home in Torrance, Calif. - until the day in May, 1994, he was coaxed into a Mariner tryout camp as a pitcher. "I always had a strong arm," he said. "I figured, `Why not?' "
In two short seasons he had made it to the Mariners, appeared in three games in a September callup, made the 40-man roster and yesterday was one of five young pitchers who left a good impression on Manager Lou Piniella.
"It was a good way to start," Piniella said of his team's effort in the game, which was played to benefit Peoria charities and does not count as a Cactus League contest. "We generally played well for a first time out and the kids pitched well, threw strikes."
Paul Menhart made a superb first impression. In two innings he allowed two hits, but threw 18 strikes in 27 pitches, including first-pitch strikes to seven of the final eight batters he faced.
Rafael Carmona followed, allowed four hits and got out of the third inning with a nice changeup that Tony Gwynn grounded to shortstop.
Salomon Torres struggled somewhat in his two innings, running some long counts. "But when you consider he's working with new mechanics," Piniella said, "we think he did well."
Left-hander Tim Davis gave up San Diego's second run and survived a scare on the last out of the eighth when Gabe Alvarez lined a rocket off his glove hand. Davis recovered, calmly chased down the rolling ball and threw Alvarez out at first. "It broke a few blood vessels," Davis said. "I may not be able to catch a ball for a day or two. But since it's the right hand, I'm not about to worry."
Seattle scored two runs in the second off two Padre errors. Dan Wilson delivered an RBI grounder and Alex Rodriguez an RBI single. It was 2-1 when Raul Ibanez, an impressive young hitter, led the sixth with a double rammed inside first base. He scored on Doug Strange's two-out single.
And it was 3-2 when Davison, the former shortstop, took the mound in the ninth. He set up Mike Sharperson on fastballs and put him away with a slider. On a 3-and-1 count, Rico Rossy doubled to right-center but was caught foolishly trying for third on a relay from right fielder Steve Pegues to second baseman Felix Fermin to Strange.
Davison blew away Homer Bush on high heat to end it.
-- San Diego outfielder Marc Newfield is rumored to be on the trading block. Newfield and pitcher Ron Villone were traded from Seattle to San Diego for pitcher Andy Benes last August.
-- The Mariners beat the Padres for the 14th straight time. That string includes 11 wins since they have shared the Peoria facility.
-- Seattle shortened its unsigned list to three by signing right-hander Bob Wolcott to a one-year contract thought to be for $115,000 plus $50,000 in incentives. Still unsigned: Dan Wilson, Bobby Ayala and Edwin Hurtado.
-- Tomorrow's game will be the first of three exhibition games televised in Seattle on KIRO; the others are March 22 and 29.
-- Outfielder Jay Buhner donated 162 boxes of Cheerios he was given in a General Mills promotion to the Peoria branch of the St. Vincent de Paul food bank.
-- Because of a stiff back, right-hander John Farrell was scratched from making his first outing today. Derrick Lowe will replace him.