WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Manager Frank Robinson won't come right out and say that left-hander Mike Flanagan will be on the Baltimore Orioles' roster come Opening Day, but he already has decided how Flanagan will be used in the early weeks of the season.
"He'll start out as a reliever," Robinson said. "That's not to say that he won't ever start, but leaving Florida he'd be coming out of the bullpen to start the season."
Of course, Robinson qualifies everything with an if, as in "if Flanagan makes the team." But that's just a formality. Flanagan has been one of the most effective pitchers in camp -- maybe the most effective. He's left-handed. He's experienced. He's a popular throwback to Baltimore's glorious baseball past. It doesn't take Abner Doubleday to figure out that he's going to make the team.
The big question is whether he'll eventually show up in the starting rotation. The Orioles probably will take advantage of three early days off and use only three starters for the first two weeks of the season, so it's only logical that Flanagan will start in the bullpen, even if he ends up being the No. 4 or No. 5 starter.
In the meantime, he will be the left-handed middle man, which will give the club a chance to evaluate him against regular-season competition and give Flanagan an opportunity to get comfortable after nearly a year out of the loop.
* General manager Roland Hemond said yesterday that the club would not make a decision on whether to place injured pitcher Ben McDonald on the disabled list until Sunday.
"Why make a decision when we don't have to?" Hemond said. "You can make it retroactive nine days, so we'll just wait and see what happens."
It seems certain that the club eventually will put McDonald on the disabled list, since the rehabilitation program prescribed for his sore elbow runs through the first five days of the season. Placing him on the 15-day disabled list would keep him out of action at least one day beyond the end of the rehab program but would allow the club to keep another player on the roster for the first six days of the season.
* Robinson had hoped to start the season with a nine-man pitching staff and keep an extra position player for the first two weeks of the regular season, but he is wavering.
"I was going to go with nine, but now I don't know," he said. "I might go with 10 just to have a secure feeling."
The loose April schedule, which features three open dates in the first 11 days, will allow Robinson to use just three starters, so he could go with a nine-man pitching staff and still have six pitchers in the bullpen.
* With a fourth-inning home run by Leo Gomez, the Orioles broke a spring club record for runs scored. Sunday, the Orioles tied the record of 144 set by the 1985 club.
* Center fielder Mike Devereaux had two hits and a two-run home run in yesterday's 7-6 loss to the Montreal Expos, raising his batting average to .379.
He continues to tear up Grapefruit League pitching in an attempt to win a full-time leadoff job.
* Catcher Bob Melvin is having an outstanding spring. He is batting .350 with a home run and seven RBI and has thrown out seven of the first 10 runners who have attempted to steal against him. The other Orioles catchers came into yesterday's game having thrown out one of 15 potential base stealers.
* Assistant general manager Doug Melvin said that a number of clubs have expressed an interest in left-handed knuckleballer Dan Boone, who asked to be traded when it became apparent that he would not make the Orioles' major-league roster.
"A couple of clubs have asked to take a look at him," Melvin said. "We're trying to accommodate him."