SARASOTA, Fla. -- Larry Sheets spent some time behind the iron mask yesterday and said he will catch and do anything else manager Frank Robinson asks if it will help him make the Baltimore Orioles' 25-man Opening Day roster.
"It's a new experience," said Sheets. "I think it's something that in a few days I'll get a little more acclimated to it."
It wasn't the first time Sheets put on the gear, but it has been a long time since the Orioles last suggested that he might be a more valuable player if he did. He resisted the idea his first time around, but he is open to anything now.
"What I'm trying to do is get acclimated enough that if I make the ballclub and they get in a situation where they need a third catcher, they'll feel comfortable enough to put me back there," Sheets said. "The way I figure it, the more you can do, the more time you're going to play."
That is the attitude throughout the Orioles clubhouse and several other players are working out at new positions. Juan Bell is being tutored at second base. Randy Milligan and David Segui just began workouts in the outfield. Sheets is here on a non-roster invitation to audition for a reserve outfield role, but a second skill wouldn't hurt his chances.
The Orioles don't figure to need the catching help. Chris Hoiles and Bob Melvin are expected to get almost all of the playing time behind the plate, and veteran Ernie Whitt is here trying to earn the No. 3 job. But Sheets could benefit if the club feels that it cannot afford to keep an extra outfielder and an extra catcher.
* Pitcher Brian DuBois reported to camp to continue rehabilitating his reconstructed left elbow and said he hopes to be throwing "seriously" by July.
Dr. Charles Silberstein, who took part in DuBois' tendon transplant last September, has put together a highly structured throwing program. He confirmed that DuBois is progressing well, but the club is in no rush to test his arm. No one is counting on him to pitch competitively until next year.
* Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer went through his third day of workouts yesterday, but it did not include any time on the mound. He is scheduled to move up to 15 minutes of throwing today.
"They just ran our butts off today," Palmer said. "We went from foul line to foul line 32 times. Mike Flanagan used to say you have to send your mind to the Bahamas on a day like this, but I had to send my mind to one of the Greek islands."
Relief pitcher Mark Williamson said jokingly that the grueling workout was designed specifically for Palmer.
"They're trying to run him off," said Williamson, who indicated that several younger Orioles might have to quit first.
* If Palmer's comeback should succeed, he would be only the fourth player in a major team sport to come back to play after being inducted into a hall of fame.
The other three played in the National Hockey League. Gordie Howe played for the Detroit Red Wings for 25 seasons before being voted into the Hall of Fame in 1972. He came back to play in the World Hockey Association and eventually returned to the NHL. Guy Lafleur played for the Montreal Canadiens until his retirement in 1984, then came back in 1988 soon after he was inducted. But the first to play while in the hall of fame was Dit Clapper of the Boston Bruins, who was an original inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945 and continued playing until 1947.
Bob Cousy came back after a six-year layoff to play in the National Basketball Association, but was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame soon after his second retirement.
* The Orioles are the first team in baseball to have their own satellite channel. Highlights from each day's workouts are put on satellite and can be accessed by any television station in the country.
The Montreal Expos are expected to set up a similar program later this spring.