Baltimore's own Dave Johnson gets the call for the Orioles tomorrow night when they open a six-game road trip in Texas. On a pitching staff with a lot of negatives, Johnson is a positive.
Not only is he the team's leading winner from last year with 13 victories (against nine losses). The gutsy 29-year-old righthander from Middle River is also the club's stopper. Last year he was 9-0 when pitching after an Orioles' loss.
An additional plus for Johnson is his present physical condition. "I'm feeling the best I've felt in a long time," he said before the club headed West.
"For the last two offseasons I haven't had to pitch. That makes a big difference to your arm. In my career I've never had anything more than nagging little pains. Right now I have no pain at all."
In the past -- meaning before Johnson's (and the Orioles') Cinderella year of 1989 -- Dave pitched winter ball for the same reason most people go to work: to put food on the table. Now that he's established he can take winters off.
After nearly a decade in professional baseball, Johnson says he has learned one important thing: "You don't try to do too much," he said. "Don't try to do things you can't do. You don't try to throw the ball 95 miles an hour when you can only throw it 83.
"Nobody's going to remember if you won the game 19-0 or 6-5. All they'll remember is whether you won or lost. Just do what you can do and pitch to good spots."
* After all the nostalgia this week over the final year at Memorial Stadium, some people wonder why we're leaving the place.
Rich King, of Chicago's TV Channel 2, has watched the fans' reaction here and come up with an interesting insight.
"We'll open Comiskey Park II in another week," King said, "and there are still people in Chicago who are sorry we're leaving the old park.
"That's because they've never been in a new park. Everything in Chicago was old -- Comiskey, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field. After Chicagoans are in the new place a month they'll realize how much nicer it is and they'll love it. I think Baltimore fans will do the same thing when they get their new park next year."
* The Skipjacks, who play Game 3 of their best-of-seven playoff series with Binghamton here tonight, are not as bad off as it might seem, even though they're down 2-0.
The Jacks have a good chance to even the series here tonight and Saturday. They won all three games from Binghamton at the Arena this season, outscoring the visitors, 16-5.
* The yawn of the week goes to the announcement that Kenny Anderson will forgo the rest of his college eligibility and enter the NBA draft.
Anybody with ears, a TV set and half a brain knew it six weeks ago, when Anderson, being interviewed at the ACC tournament, was asked: "What about your career at Georgia Tech?" His answer: "That was great."
* If you're planning a trip to California to play Pebble Beach, as many golfers dream of doing, bring money. Lance Holden and three of his Lax World employees returned from Pebble yesterday, shocked at how the cost has soared since the Japanese bought the place six months ago.
The fee for an 18-hole round of golf is $200 (it was $125 a year ago). Under the new ownership you can't reserve tee time in advance unless you're staying at the lodge, which is also expensive. Even so, the Pebble Beach course is booked solid.
* Washington needn't feel outdone in trying to impress National League expansion people because it didn't draw 60,000-plus crowds for Orioles exhibition games the way Miami did. People in Miami say the Joe Robbie Stadium house was loaded with paper (freebies). The NL expansion committee knows that.
* At the University of North Carolina, lacrosse has replaced baseball as the No. 3 sport on campus after basketball and football. That's a tribute to Baltimore native Willie Scroggs, now an assistant athletic director at UNC. He built the lacrosse program at Chapel Hill from 1979-90 before turning it over this year to his longtime assistant, Dave Klarmann.
A defensive specialist, Klarmann has shaped a defense that has allowed no opponent more than eight goals. It will get a good test Saturday when the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels play No. 5 Virginia at Charlottesville.