The way Orioles pitching coach Al Jackson sees it, the young man had a training camp worthy of an old pro.
Jose Mesa, 24, with only 62 days of major-league seasoning spread over four years, will oppose Chicago's Greg Hibbard when the Orioles play their second game of the year tonight (7:35, HTS) at Memorial Stadium. Mesa's major-league experience consists of only 78 innings.
"He had a spring typical of an old pro," Jackson said. "He was behind the others during the first half, but he got better and better. At the end, when he was supposed to be ready, he was ready."
It had been Mesa's custom to pitch during the offseason. But last winter the Dominican didn't, perhaps because he spent the time in Rochester.
"Being in Rochester made it tough to work out and throw," Jackson said. "But once he got to Florida, he caught up fast. It was like a guy 35."
Mesa compiled a 2-0 exhibition record, with a 2.88 ERA and no home runs in 25 innings. He claimed the spot as the No. 2 starter behind Ben McDonald.
"They sprayed hits off him the first few games, but then he got it going well," Jackson said. "His control improved; that's one reason he had a good spring."
Last season was supposed to be a year of rehabilitation at Double A Hagerstown for Mesa after elbow surgery in 1989. However, he ended the season as one of the Orioles' most dependable starters following his elevation from Triple A Rochester Aug. 28.
After dropping his first two starts, he went 3-0 in his next five, and the Orioles won all of them. When Mesa beat Toronto Sept. 13, it was his second major-league victory, 1,077 days after his first over Detroit in 1987.
Clearly, Mesa has some catching up to do.
* ONE AWAY: Rickey Henderson star of Oakland's 7-2 win over Minnesota, will tie Lou Brock's all-time record of 938 with next stolen base.
* SWEET: Benito Santiago's game-winning hit yesterday came off Giants reliever Jeff Brantley, who broke Santiago's left forearm last June 14.
* ROUGH WELCOME: Mike Boddicker lost in Royals Stadium for the first time since 1983 despite going nine innings and allowing five hits and one run.
* STREAKY: Before winning 20 of 21 April starts, Oakland's Dave Stewart had lost 10 straight April decisions.
ORIOLES ON DECK
VS. WHITE SOX
* WHEN: Today, 7:35 p.m.
(HTS, WBAL-AM 1090, WTOP-AM 1500)
* WHERE: Memorial Stadium.
* SEASON SERIES: White Sox lead 1-0.
* STANDINGS: The Orioles (0-1) are tied for sixth place in the AL East, one game out of first. The White Sox (1-0) are tied for first place in the AL West.
* PITCHERS: The Orioles' Jose Mesa (3-2, 3.86) vs. the White Sox's Greg Hibbard (14-9, 3.16).
* EXTRA BASES: Leo Gomez could start at DH tonight in an all-righthanded lineup against lefty Greg Hibbard . . . Bob Milacki continues to work out with the Orioles and will make his first start of the season tomorrow night for Hagerstown . . . The Orioles go on a six-game trip beginning Friday in Texas and ending next Thursday in Milwaukee. The next home game is next Friday, April against Texas . . . The Orioles got just four hits in Monday's opener . . . Dave Johnson will start Friday's game against Texas . . . Former Oriole leftfielder Phil Bradley's two-run homer led the Yomiuri Giants over the Hanshin Tigers, 7-2, in Japan.