His odyssey over, Boone is confident Orioles can fit him into their plans

September 28, 1990|By Ken Rosenthal | Ken Rosenthal,Evening Sun Staff

* The Orioles today returned first baseman Randy Miligan to the active roster. Story, Page D5.

CLEVELAND -- The Orioles' starting pitcher on Sunday wears uniform pants that belong to the batboy. "I don't care," lefthander Dan Boone said defiantly. "They fit."

The 5-foot-8, 139-pound Boone was ecstatic yesterday after learning he will make his first major-league start against Cleveland. Only two weeks ago, he labeled his return to the majors "a miracle."

What was this?


Boone, 36, will be trying to earn his first major-league win since May 19, 1982, when he beat St. Louis pitching for San Diego. He remembers it as the day Juan Bonilla fractured his wrist. Bonilla played for the Orioles four years later. That was 1986.

This isn't Rocky Horror, it's Rocky.

But let's do the time warp again.

"When you can wait that long, it just tells you how strongly the man feels about himself, how he loves the game, how he loves to pitch," Orioles pitching coach Al Jackson said before last night's 5-3 victory over Cleveland. "He hung in there, and it paid off for him."

Now Boone is thinking of the big payoff: A job with the Orioles next year. At this point, there's no sense laughing. Boone went 2,907 days between major-league appearances. But in three relief outings with the Orioles, he has worked five scoreless innings, allowing four hits, no walks.

"You laugh because he signed out of the Senior League, you laugh because of his size, you laugh because of his age," Orioles manager Frank Robinson said earlier this month. "But the guy has pitched in the big leagues before. It's not a circus-type thing."

Robinson gave Boone the good news yesterday.

A sentimental choice, Frank?

"I'm not a sentimental person," Robinson said.

Boone was 7-1 as a starter at Rochester, 4-4 as a reliever. He even threw a seven-inning no-hitter. It would be too much, just too much, if he pitched the season's 10th no-hitter on Sunday. But it might be worth a call to Vegas. Boone throws 80-85 percent knuckleballs.

The knuckler is the pitch he refined last winter with the Bradenton Explorers of the Senior League, where he was rediscovered by Orioles scout Birdie Tebbetts. The knuckler is the pitch that he believes can keep him in the majors after this year.

In Boone's mind, Sunday is big.

"I was trying to figure exactly how much it meant," he said. "More than anything, it can only be positive. If I go out and do well, I think maybe I can show Frank that I can pitch against these hitters more than one round.

"That's what the question mark has always been as far as pitching in the big leagues. The thinking was, once they've seen me one round, I can't pitch a second round. But that's in the past. I'm a different pitcher now."

Still, it's difficult to imagine Boone returning to the Orioles, for the club is stocked with pitchers who are 15 years younger. But he has come this far, and has no intentions of stopping now. His first off-season goal is to remain on the Orioles' 40-man roster.

"I definitely deserve to be there, compared to some of the other pitchers in our system," Boone said. "I've got to believe I'm in the top 15-20. There's no doubt in my mind. I tend to think if they take me off the roster, there definitely will be someone that picks me up."

The old man in batboy pants, a free agent.

Talk about unbelievable . . .

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