SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles embark on what amounts to a 33-game road trip today when they open the Grapefruit League exhibition season against the Chicago White Sox at nearby Ed Smith Stadium. They do not play a real home game until the regular season opens April 8 in Baltimore.
This is not news, of course. The spring-training schedule has been out for months. But manager Frank Robinson waited until yesterday to reveal how he will try to minimize the effects of the grueling roadwork.
Outfielder Dwight Evans, for instance, could be held out of the first five exhibition games in an effort to reduce the time he spends on the highway. His lower-back problem is a matter of tremendous concern for the club, so Robinson doesn't want to risk aggravating it.
"He's not going the first three days," Robinson said, "and he probably won't play in the first five games unless he wants to play against his old teammates. I've decided to take it slow with him.
"He'll make some of the shorter trips. The longer trips, I'm going to let him miss as many of those as possible."
Evans doesn't like missing anything, but the Orioles are looking forward to a substantial offensive contribution from him this year. Robinson doesn't see any point in pushing him this early in the spring.
There will be other concessions to the road schedule. The Orioles will reduce the size of their traveling squad to keep as many players off the road as is reasonable.
How tough is the itinerary? Today is no problem at all, since the White Sox also train in Sarasota. But tomorrow will take the Orioles 60 miles south to Port Charlotte to play the Texas Rangers, and Saturday will find them on the other side of the state -- in Fort Lauderdale for two games against the New YorkYankees.
There are three games in the Sarasota/Bradenton area next week, but the road gets longer as the spring progresses. The final 10 games are all played on Florida's east coast.
"It presents problems with your work schedule," Robinson said. "We're never at home, so you don't get a chance to work on fundamentals and take batting practice and get ready for a game. You're always getting on a bus, and that's an inconvenience."
This was supposed to be the only year the Orioles would have to endure such an unusual schedule. When it was put together, the club had high hopes of moving into a new, permanent spring-training facility in Naples, Fla., by next year. The site had been determined. The land had been selected. The project was about to begin.
But USF&G, which had planned to buy the real estate for the venture, pulled out of the project and left the Orioles without a sponsor. The club still is looking for a replacement, which means that the Orioles will not be in a new facility for at least two years.
"I'm disappointed," Robinson said. "We left Miami last year thinking that after one year of this we would be moving into a great new facility. Now, we're going to have to do this at least one more time."
Robinson doesn't seem concerned that the constant road work will have an adverse affect on the regular season, but he is going to spread the spring playing time around to lessen the possibility.
He has placed reliever Gregg Olson on a decelerated training program for reasons unrelated to the logistics of spring training. He figures to rest other players as the Grapefruit League season grinds on.
It should not have any effect on the pitching staff, since only the pitchers expected to throw on a given day are included on the manifest.
"What's good about it is, I won't have to go on all the trips," PTC starter Dave Johnson said, "but I feel sorry for the other guys. What a time to be a pitcher, huh?"
Randy Milligan figures to make a lot of trips, since he's going to be working to acclimate himself to the outfield. But he doesn't seem concerned about the fatigue factor.
"I'm sure they'll look closely at giving guys some days off," he said. "I don't think guys are going to go on every trip every day until the last 10 days."
1991 Orioles spring schedule
Date Opponent Site Time Radio/TV
Today White Sox Sarasota 1:35 p.m. WBAL
Tomorrow Rangers Port Charlotte 1:30 p.m. WBAL
Saturday Yankees Fort Lauderdale 1:05 p.m. WBAL
Sunday Yankees Fort Lauderdale 1:05 p.m. WBAL
Monday Red Sox Bradenton 1:05 p.m. WBAL/HTS
Monday White Sox (S) Sarasota 1:05 p.m.
Tuesday Rangers Sarasota 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday Red Sox Winter Haven 1:05 p.m.
March 14 White Sox Sarasota 7:05 p.m.
March 15 Twins Fort Myers 1:05 p.m. WBAL
March 16 Rangers Port Charlotte 1:30 p.m. WBAL/Chs. 2, 20
March 17 Blue Jays Dunedin 1:35 p.m. WBAL
March 19 Tigers Sarasota 1:35 p.m.
March 19 Yankees (S) Fort Lauderdale 1:05 p.m.
March 20 Mets Port St. Lucie 1:05 p.m. HTS
March 21 Blue Jays Dunedin 1:35 p.m. HTS
March 22 Twins Sarasota 1:35 p.m. WBAL
March 23 Royals Haines City 1:05 p.m. WBAL/Chs. 2, 20
March 24 White Sox Sarasota 1:35 p.m. WBAL
March 25 Pirates Bradenton 1:05 p.m. HTS
March 26 Phillies Clearwater 1:05 p.m.
March 27 Dodgers Vero Beach 1:35 p.m.
March 28 Expos W. Palm Beach 1:05 p.m.
March 28 Expos (S) Pompano Beach 1:05 p.m.
March 29 Yankees Fort Lauderdale 1:05 p.m. WBAL
March 30 Yankees Miami 7:35 p.m. Chs. 2, 20
March 31 Yankees Miami 1:35 p.m. WBAL
April 1 Expos W. Palm Beach 1:05 p.m. HTS
April 2 Braves W. Palm Beach 1:05 p.m.
April 3 Expos W. Palm Beach 7:05 p.m.
April 4 Yankees Fort Lauderdale 1:05 p.m. WBAL/ESPN
April 6 Red Sox RFK Stadium 1:35 p.m. WBAL
April 7 Red Sox RFK Stadium 1:35 p.m. WBAL
(S) -- Split squad