Ben McDonald's big test will come Friday. That's when the big righthander re-introduces himself to the curveball and finds out how his arm reacts.
"We're going to give him two days off this time, let him throw 20 minutes and see what happens," said pitching coach Al Jackson.
McDonald threw for 15 minutes yesterday, restricting himself to fastballs and changeups, and reported no ill effects. "What happens next depends on how he reacts to the curveball," said Jackson.
If all goes well, Jackson said the next step would be to get McDonald in a game, but he again refused to speculate where that game might be played. It could be in Florida, with the Orioles' extended spring training team, with Single A Frederick, Double A Hagerstown or Triple A Rochester.
McDonald, who has been bothered by a strained elbow for two weeks, is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, but he won't keep that date. It is more likely that it will be at least another 10 days before McDonald makes his 1991 major-league debut.
* LEO AT DH? There will be at least one change in the Orioles' lineup tonight. With lefthander Greg Hibbard pitching, Sam Horn will be replaced as the designated hitter, most likely by Leo Gomez or possibly Chris Hoiles, both righthanded hitters.
Manager Frank Robinson will use nine righthanded hitters against Hibbard, who features a lot of off-speed pitches.
* MEMORABLE JOE: Robinson reiterated that outfielder Joe Orsulak has not been relegated to backup duty. "He'll be in there," said Robinson, indicating Orsulak will divide time between the outfield and the designated hitter role. "I can't let him sit too long or he'll get rusty."
Every year, it seems, Orsulak goes to spring training without a regular job and emerges as one of the Orioles' leading hitters. Dwight Evans is expected to get most of his rest when righthanders are pitching, which opens up some time for Orsulak.
How well Horn hits as the DH will dictate much about that spot, but it's safe to assume that Robinson will find about 350 at-bats for Orsulak, a career .276 hitter.
* WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT THEY GOT: For those wondering why more lefthanded hitters (Horn was the only one) weren't utilized against Jack McDowell on Opening Day, the answer is basic. What you saw is what the Orioles have.
Rarely, if ever, will there be more than two lefthanded hitters in the lineup at the same time -- and it will not be unusual to have only one. Those who don't like the platoon system will like this team. Those who do will get a lot of opportunities to second guess.
* UPCOMING PROBABLES: The Orioles will pitch Dave Johnson, Jeff Ballard and Jeff Robinson in that order over the weekend against the Texas Rangers. Nolan Ryan is expected to pitch either Saturday or Sunday against the Orioles.
Until further notice, Ballard has inherited the role designed for McDonald -- the one that would permit the Orioles' No. 1 starter to pitch as many as six of the first 21 games.