WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Baltimore Orioles left-hander Jeff Ballard made his final exhibition appearance last night, hoping to prepare for his Opening Day start against the Chicago White Sox by treating the Montreal Expos like a regular-season opponent.
But nature took the realism thing a little too far, simulating early-season weather conditions with a rain delay in the third inning. Ballard sat through it and returned to the mound, only to have the game rained out minutes later.
"I really would have liked to get five innings in," Ballard said, "but in retrospect, I got enough work. I warmed up three times."
Ballard gave up two hits during three innings and struck out one. The game ended with the Orioles holding a 4-0 lead.
"He was fine," manager Frank Robinson said. "He got enough work. He'll be ready."
The three innings don't count in the Grapefruit League statistics, so Ballard ends his exhibition season with a 3-0 record and 3.13 ERA.
* The umpiring crew waited until after the Orioles' bus had left West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium to announce that the game had been called, keeping hundreds of fans in the stands for about 40 minutes.
The rain had subsided within minutes after the second delay began and the field appeared playable. Unknowing fans were chanting, "Play ball," while the team bus was pulling away from the stadium.
* The Orioles announced another round of roster cuts yesterday, optioning outfielder Luis Mercedes and utility player Jeff McKnight to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings roster.
Both players, however, will remain with the team for the weekend series against the Boston Red Sox at RFK Stadium in Washington.
The two transactions leave the Orioles with 29 players at the major-league level, three of them (Ernie Whitt, Paul Kilgus and Roy Smith) non-roster invitees. The remaining cuts probably will be made Sunday.
* Right-hander Ben McDonald continues to play long toss and say that the soreness in his elbow has subsided.
* Right-hander J.J. Bautista appears to have made the team, but he isn't assuming anything after going back and forth between the major and minor leagues the past three seasons.
"I feel like I've thrown good so far," he said, "but I don't worry about [the roster]. I can only work hard and try to win a job. I'm forgetting 1988, '89 and '90. It's what I do right now that counts."
* The Orioles scored all four of their runs against former Oriole Dennis Martinez in the first inning. Joe Orsulak, Leo Gomez and Juan Bell each singled home a run, and Martinez brought home another when he walked Tim Hulett with the bases loaded.
* Orioles fans can see Robinson on two television channels tonight. His guest appearance on "The Cosby Show," shot in January, will be aired on NBC, and the Orioles' final Florida exhibition game against the New York Yankees will be shown on ESPN.
* The Orioles continue to rewrite the record book for spring training. The club has set records for runs (160), hits (292) and home runs (29). The Orioles are batting a combined .2891, .0002 better than the club record of .2889.