SARASOTA, FLORIDA — SARASOTA, Fla. -- The rites of spring have been kind to Mike Flanagan.
The Baltimore Orioles' fourth all-time biggest winner added more luster to his bid to make his former team yesterday with a five-inning, one-hit performance against a makeshift Detroit Tigers lineup at Ed Smith Stadium.
After 12 Grapefruit League innings, Flanagan remains one of six American League pitchers who have not allowed an earned run this spring. The only hit against him was a bloop single by Mark Salas.
Does he feel his comeback to a major-league roster is assured?
"Not at this point," he said. "It's too early. There are 20 days left, and I have possibly four more starts. Obviously, I'm throwing the ball well and I handled a lot more pitches than last time, but what you do is take steps forward until you get exactly where you want to be."
The Tigers, like the Orioles, were playing split-squad games in two locations, so Flanagan faced only Alan Trammell and Travis Fryman from their everyday lineup.
But that did not diminish the impact of a 5-1 victory in which he permitted only four balls out of the infield.
"The good thing is I haven't had a major setback and had to regroup," he said. "Usually, you have a dead period. There are a lot of positive signs to build from."
The only two runs against Flanagan this spring came Thursday, when Jeff McKnight misplayed a potential third-out fly ball into a three-base error. In his other appearance -- in relief -- he yielded one hit in three innings.
He said he would start or relieve, whatever the Orioles want, if he makes the roster.
"I've tried to be open-minded about that," he said. "I really haven't relieved. But I think in the right situation I could come in and face the [Don] Mattinglys. The biggest adjustment would be learning how to get ready in the bullpen."
A strong sinker served him well against the Tigers, whose only run came in the seventh on a bloop single by former Oriole John Shelby.
"I felt I was throwing too well not to give this a chance," said Flanagan. "Elrod [coach Elrod Hendricks] gave me pats on the back and pushed me last winter."
He wants to make his old club and not try to hook on elsewhere if he doesn't.
"That's the way I'd like it to be," said Flanagan, whose family lives in suburban Baltimore. "It solves the geographical problem, and I won't have to live in an apartment and be away all the time.
"Until you go away [he spent three-plus seasons in Toronto], you don't appreciate what being home means."