ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Baltimore Orioles are steering toward an April 22 debut for right-hander Ben McDonald, who took another step yesterday in his recovery from elbow soreness.
McDonald threw on the side for 18 minutes at Arlington Stadium, reporting no pain as he used his breaking ball for the first time since he was sidelined with a strained flexor muscle.
If all continues to go well, he will throw again Sunday and pitch in a minor-league game Wednesday, which could set him up for his first regular-season start against the Chicago White Sox at the new Comiskey Park five days later.
"He was the best I have seen him," pitching coach Al Jackson said. "He threw for 18 minutes, he maintained the proper mechanics and showed a lot of progress. I want to see how he is on Sunday, then Wednesday we'll have to find him a game."
McDonald said that game probably will be in an extended-spring training setting in Sarasota, Fla. He welcomes the opportunity to pitch in a competitive situation before stepping back up to major-league competition.
"I just want to throw to some hitters," he said before he went out to throw. "I don't care whether it's here or there. If I have to go somewhere, I'd like to go to Sarasota. It's warm down there, and Tom Brown was my pitching coach in college. I trust him. He knows how I throw. But I do need to pitch somewhere."
McDonald said after the workout that he had been told his wish probably would be granted.
"Al suggested I throw again here and then go to Sarasota for a game and then come back," he said. "Today was the best yet. There was no pain."
The Orioles will wait to see how his arm bounces back from the workout before making any final determination about his schedule, but club officials seem pleased with the progress McDonald has made.
"We'll probably decide tomorrow," manager Frank Robinson said. "We'd like to see how he feels after he's slept on it, but that [pitching a minor-league game] is what we'd like him to do. That might be the best thing for him. That way, you can judge a little better, when he's not holding anything back."
The April 22 debut is not set, but Jackson and Robinson indicated that McDonald probably will start on the fifth day after his minor-league appearance.
Site: Arlington Stadium
Orioles starter: Jeff Ballard (0-1, 9.53)
Rangers starter: Kenny Rogers (10-6, 3.13 in 1990)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)
TV: Channels 2, 20
Tough flight, late night
The Orioles took a late-night charter to Texas that encountered rough weather all along the way. The result was a 1 1/2 -hour delay to avoid heavy thunderstorms and another delay when the bus was 30 minutes late at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The traveling party arrived at the team hotel about 4 a.m. yesterday.
The intent of the late flight was to give the players a day off at home after a two-game homestand, but it probably further fatigued an already road-weary club.
Palmer loses the limp
Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer is walking well again after recovering from the hamstring injury that ended his improbable comeback attempt. Palmer accompanied the Orioles to Texas to work the three games for WMAR-TV, but he jokingly hinted at another comeback attempt.
"I started running the other day," he said, laughing. "The comeback is back on."
Kilgus returns to Texas
Left-hander Paul Kilgus was looking forward to his first appearance at Arlington Stadium this weekend. He had not pitched here since the Rangers traded him to the Chicago Cubs along with Mitch Williams and Steve Wilson for Rafael Palmeiro, Drew Hall and Jamie Moyer.
"It's a good ballpark," said Kilgus, who originally was drafted and signed by the Rangers. "It's good to be back here."
Kilgus had been back once -- when the Toronto Blue Jays played a makeup game here last year -- but had not pitched here since 1988.
Anderson, Orsulak start
Brady Anderson and Joe Orsulak made their first starts of 1991 as manager Robinson tried to balance his lineup with some left-handed hitting against Texas Rangers starter Bobby Witt.
Anderson had a tough spring, batting .226, but was working on a new approach to hitting with coach Tom McCraw.
"Brady was trying to adapt to a new hitting philosophy," Robinson said. "He was trying to do some new things. As long as he kept working on what we asked him to, I didn't worry about the results. But this is the real test."
Orsulak batted .310 this spring but remained on the bench while Dwight Evans started the first two games of the season in right field.