For Mussina, success more than spring fling

The Inside Stuff

March 24, 1992|By Bill Tanton

With guarded optimism. That's the intelligent way to view the Orioles' surprising success in spring training. After yesterday's 5-2 win over the Yankees, the O's are 13-5 -- the best record in the majors.

You can let your guard down, however, when it comes to pitcher Mike Mussina.

Clearly, this 23-year-old Stanford grad is for real -- and this is not a conclusion based only on Mussina's performance in exhibition games.

Mussina, if you'll think back to 1991, convinced a lot of people then that he had a great future in this organization.

The word most often used to explain his work during the last two months of the season -- when he had an earned run average of 2.87 -- was "poise." If Ben McDonald had half as much, people said, the Orioles would have two great young pitchers.

This spring Mussina has been even more brilliant.

He has pitched 14 innings and he hasn't given up a run. He didn't allow a hit until Saturday, when he gave up two to the Cardinals. He is striking out hitters at the rate of one per inning. Opponents are batting .047 against him.

Dick Bosman, the O's pitching coach who worked with Mussina in Rochester, says Mike is "mature beyond his years."

The jury is still out on McDonald.

* Although the creature comforts are drawing raves from those who have toured Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it's my guess that a couple more essential things will mean more to the players.

One is the lights. They're vastly superior to the arcs at Memorial Stadium. Bill Malstrum, head electrician, says the new lights passed "the acid test" the other night.

"We had sort of a dress rehearsal," Malstrum said. "We had every light focused to illuminate a certain spot on the playing field. It looked great, as far as we could tell."

And if the players don't think it looks so great, Malstrum was asked, can't he simply adjust the lights?

"Not really," he said. "They'll have to live with it. Those lights are set now."

The other thing is the four pitching mounds behind the dugouts. They're great compared to the cold, dark throwing area under the stands on 33rd Street. The new ones are air conditioned for summer and heated for those winter workouts. Orioles batterymen are going to love them.

The critics are waxing so poetic over the charms of downtown OPACY that one fan told me yesterday he thinks we should skip the games this season and just let Jon Miller read from Roger Angell and George Will over the public-address system.

"The ballpark is perfect," the fan said. "Why spoil it by letting that team on the field?"

* Lacrosse fans this year can't leave their seats until the games are over, judging by the close scores early in the season.

No. 1-ranked Johns Hopkins has beaten both Princeton and Syracuse by the same 15-14 score. Sunday, North Carolina beat Princeton, 9-8, and Virginia beat Hobart, 15-14, on a goal by Calvert Hall grad Kevin Pehlke with two seconds left.

"I've never seen such parity in the game as we have now," says Roy Simmons, Syracuse University's Hall of Fame coach.

Explains Hopkins coach Tony Seaman: "There are just so many more lacrosse players around now and they're scattered all over the country. The time is long past when one or two teams could hoard most of the good players."

* Question: Who was the clown who voted Syracuse No. 1 in the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll this week -- after the Orange had lost to undefeated Hopkins? Seven first-place votes went to Hopkins. Fine. Loyola received four. Also fine. Syracuse may yet win the whole thing, but it's not No. 1 this week.

* Answer to an inquiry: Hopkins and Loyola College, the top two ranked teams in the country, do not meet in the regular season. They'll play next year and every year thereafter.

* Lacrosse is not the only spring sport on a roll at Hopkins. The Blue Jays baseball team, picked No. 6 in the nation in Division III preseason polls, is off to an 11-2 start. "So far so good," says coach Bob Babb.

* Two young lacrosse coaches with well-known names make their Maryland Scholastic Association debuts today. One is Drew Bowden, nephew of Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden. The other is Greg Mix, younger brother of Penn lacrosse coach G.W. Mix. Bowden and Mix are at Mount St. Joe, which plays host to Boys' Latin.

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