WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There are four days before the opening of the 1991 season, and the Baltimore Orioles pitching situation is more clouded than ever before.
Stopper Gregg Olson, who has been on a limited exhibition work schedule to preserve his right elbow, woke up earlier this week with a sore shoulder and has been placed on anti-inflammatory medication. He does not appear to be destined for the disabled list, but his availability during the early weeks of the season will depend on how he responds to rest and rehabilitation.
"It's just some soreness in a strange place," Olson said. "It has been stiff and tight all spring, but I woke up and it was stiff in a different place."
This has to be disturbing news for the Orioles, who may have to start the season with starter Ben McDonald on the disabled list. McDonald has been rehabilitating a sore elbow and doesn't figure to be available until at least a week into the season.
Pitching coach Al Jackson said he has held Olson back the past few days in hope that the soreness will subside, but Olson still is scheduledto pitch Saturday in preparation for possible late-inning duty on Opening Day.
"We just backed him off the past couple of days," Jackson said. "I don't think it's anything serious, but we'll pitch him on the side and see how he feels. You would like them all to be throwing full blast right now, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if they [Olson and McDonald] have to miss a few days at the beginning of the season. They are going to have plenty of opportunities to pitch this year."
Olson can't help but be a little discouraged. He was out of action briefly last year with a sore elbow, and manager Frank Robinson has had him on a decelerated schedule this spring to preserve his arm for the regular season.
He was rushed into a rare start last week when McDonald had to be scratched from a game against the Montreal Expos at West Palm Beach Stadium, but said that the soreness did not appear until after his relief appearance Sunday.
"You think you're taking it easy and you're going about it the right way, then something like this crops up," Olson said, "but this is minor compared to what could happen to someone in this game. Eight out of 10 times, you're not going to go into the game feeling perfect, anyway."
This could be an important year for Olson. He becomes eligible for salary arbitration at the end of the season and will be in line for a major contract if he has a season that compares with his first two. But he said he will not be extra cautious about his arm or shoulder just because he stands to make a lot of money.
"I'm a guy who doesn't have the word 'no' in my vocabulary," he said. "If somebody hands me the ball, I'm going to go out there. If I have a bad year, I have a bad year. But nobody's going to look back and say I didn't give 110 percent.
"I'm not thinking about whether I can make a lot of money this year. I want to go out and do my job. You never know how long you're going to get to play. If I blow out my arm, I blow out my arm and everyone can tell me that I screwed up."
Robinson said yesterday that he intends to use Olson conservatively throughout the 1991 season. That was the plan from the beginning, when he held Olson back for the first five days of the exhibition season. Olson has pitched 11 innings this spring, giving up 12 hits and five earned runs (4.09 ERA).
Olson says he still is far behind the other pitchers in camp.
"I'm still two or three weeks behind everybody else," he said. "Everybody went through that 'knot' period, where all your muscles knot up, in February. I just went through it about a week and a half ago."
It's Quayle's pitch
It worked 37 years ago, so the Baltimore Orioles are giving it another try.
Yesterday, the Orioles announced that Vice President Dan Quayle is expected to throw out the first ball Monday at the final Opening Day at Memorial Stadium. The first-ball pitcher at the Orioles' first home opener, in 1954, also was the vice president, Richard M. Nixon.
Quayle will share this year's honor with the Opening Day pitchers from 1954, Bob Turley and Virgil Trucks. The Orioles won the '54 opener, 3-1.