There are no personal goals within reach, and he will miss out on incentive bonuses in his contract, but Ben McDonald is finishing this season the same way he is expected to start the next one.
Pencil him in as No. 1 in the rotation. Since making his first major-league start July 21, McDonald has been a jewel of consistency for the Orioles despite a won-lost record that is slightly misleading. And the 6-foot-7 righthander isn't scheduled to be shut down early.
McDonald (7-5, 2.67) will make his next-to-last start of the season against the Cleveland Indians tonight, no longer able to push his win total to double figures. But he is on target to move to the head of the rotation by next year.
As impressive as numbers are for a rookie -- particularly the earned run average that was bruised only in two outings against the Boston Red Sox -- it is McDonald's style that has attracted the most attention. He has not struck out as many batters as anticipated and Orioles manager Frank Robinson, for one, has been impressed.
"You know he can strike people out," said Robinson, "but he doesn't try to do it. He's content to get an out on one or two !! pitches if he can.
McDonald has demonstrated that he knows more than a little bit about pitching, enough to move comfortably into the No. 1 slot next year. But, as vital as he is to the Orioles' future, McDonald's start tonight won't attract as much attention from the Orioles as the one Bob Milacki (4-8, 4.70) makes tomorrow night.
Milacki had been projected as a potential No. 1 starter this year, but never got out of the starting block. He still figures prominently for next year, however, and his first start since July 30 will be carefully monitored.