ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Righthander Ben McDonald, remaining on schedule for what he hopes will be his first uninterrupted season in the major leagues, pitched five shutout innings yesterday against the Boston Red Sox.
The game lasted 12 innings and ended in a 1-1 tie, but it was another victory for McDonald, who started each of the past two seasons on the disabled list.
"This spring, I think I'm right where I should be," said McDonald, who gave up four hits and did not walk a batter. "I'm very excited. This is the farthest I've gotten into spring training. I thank God for every day."
No doubt, the rest of the team feels the same way. McDonald figured to be the aceof the staff a year ago, but a sore elbow knocked him out of action midway through the exhibition season and dogged him for months. He started the season on the disabled list and was back on it in late May, then ended the season with a sore shoulder.
"I'm just looking forward to starting this season healthy and pitching as well as I can," he said. "If I can take the ball 30-35 times, good things are going to happen. I haven't done that yet. I want to see what I can do."
McDonald was scheduled for six innings yesterday, but he pitched with runners on base for much of his fifth spring appearance and was approaching his 75-pitch limit after five innings.
"I would have liked to go six," he said, "but I had a lot of guys on base and I threw a lot of pitches. That was enough. This one [game] felt pretty good. I had a little dead-arm period the last couple of times -- that's going around a bit -- but I felt pretty good today."
Most pitchers go through a period in spring training in which they appear to lose some arm strength, so there was no cause for alarm. McDonald's velocity was normal (his fastball was clocked at 93 mph) and he had good command of his pitches. But the best thing, said manager John Oates, is that McDonald no longer seems to have the weight of everyone's expectations on his shoulders.
"He seems to be having a good time out there on the mound," Oates said. "That's my perception. I think he's enjoying himself. He should be."
* ARMS PROLIFERATION: The day after Oates indicated that he was down to six candidates for the starting rotation, he raised the number to seven. Apparently, lefthander Dennis Rasmussen's projected role remains in a state of flux.
Rasmussen has made one relief appearance, and he may make another today, but Oates still is considering him as a starter.
* BUSY HORN: Designated hitter Sam Horn has some catching up to do after missing much of the exhibition season with a strained hamstring. So, he went to the minor-league camp at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota on Tuesday and played in a pair of games.
Horn got four hits in nine at-bats before returning to St. Petersburg, where he was in the starting lineup for yesterday's game against Boston. He says his hamstring still feels sore, but he figures to play regularly the rest of the spring.
"It's a little sore," said Horn, who appeared to be limping during morning sprints yesterday, "but I haven't pulled it again or anything. It's just sore because of all the activity I've had lately. I've been on the bases a lot."
* FLANAGAN TUNEUP: Lefthander Mike Flanagan started a minor-league game at Twin Lakes Park yesterday, just to get an extended workout. He has made five Grapefruit League appearances, but has pitched just seven innings in exhibition play.