SARASOTA, Fla. -- Right-hander Mike Mussina threw for 15 minutes yesterday, which normally wouldn't draw much attention this point in spring training. Not if Mussina were coming off a normal season.
He isn't, of course. He is coming back from an injury-filled 1993 season that -- at least temporarily -- threw his future as one of the game's top starters into doubt. So, his first steps of the new season are being watched with great interest . . . and a certain sense of trepidation.
The extended workout left him a little stiff, but he came away a little more confident about his prospects for a full recovery from the back and shoulder problems that limited his effectiveness through much of the 1993 season.
"I'm encouraged," he said. "Every time I go out there, I'm encouraged that everything is getting back to normal."
That's all the Orioles can ask. Mussina won 18 games in his only "normal" major-league season. He went 14-6 last year despite the injuries that limited him to 25 starts and 167 2/3 innings.
Club officials know that if he's healthy, he's going to be one of the best right-handers in the game, so even the normal aches and pains of the first week of spring training are enough to raise eyebrows. He admitted that he didn't feel all that great after back-to-back workouts the past two days.
"It doesn't feel like it did last year," he said, "but that doesn't mean that it feels like midseason form either. It's February. That was only my third time off the mound. I feel better than I expected to feel."
Nevertheless, Mussina remains positive about the prospects for 1994, and why not? Even with the soreness that originated in May and was aggravated in the infamous June brawl with the Seattle Mariners, he put up solid numbers and pushed his career record to 20 games over .500.
"The one thing that tells me is, as bad as I felt about last year, there were a whole lot of guys out there who would have taken that 14-6 and been satisfied," Mussina said. "I was really disappointed, but it wasn't that bad."
It probably was good enough to rate him the Opening Day assignment this year if he is ready, but he isn't campaigning for that honor. Just the opposite.
lTC "I don't want it," he said. "I haven't won on Opening Day since I was 14 years old."
Obando, O'Donoghue sign
The Orioles announced that they had agreed to terms with outfielder Sherman Obando and John O'Donoghue on contracts for 1994, dropping to nine the number of players who remain unsigned.
The club still is negotiating with Mussina, Brad Pennington, Jim Poole, Arthur Rhodes, Manny Alexander, Jeffrey Hammonds, Damon Buford, Jack Voigt and Armando Benitez. If they do not come to terms by March 11, the club can renew their contracts at a figure of its choosing, so long as that figure meets the minimum salary requirement ($109,000) and does not represent more than a 20 percent decrease from last year's figure.
Utility man Voigt and first baseman Paul Carey worked out with the club yesterday. Minor-league outfielder Jim Wawruck also has been given permission to join the club for early workouts and is scheduled to arrive today.
The Orioles still are waiting for Benitez to arrive from the Dominican Republic. He was scheduled to come in with the rest of the pitchers and catchers, but apparently missed his plane. Of course, that does not explain why he already is three days late.
"What? They only have one flight out of there every three days?" said manager Johnny Oates.
Up to speed
Pitching prospect Barry Manuel already is getting up to speed. He has been throwing very well off the practice mounds and left the field behind during the two-mile run on the first day of pitcher/catcher workouts.
Oates has cautioned his young players not to overdo it during the early workouts, but Manuel has made a big impression this weekend.
"He made everybody look so bad, I asked Boz [pitching coach Dick Bosman] if the rest of our pitchers are in shape," Oates said.
DuBois still at it
Oates spent some time watching left-hander Brian DuBois pitch from the practice mound yesterday. DuBois, who has had multiple operations on his left elbow over the past four years, is hoping to position himself for a late-season call-up.
"You know what he's been through the past couple of years," Oates said, "so you want to see what happens. He's throwing the ball pretty good. You've got to give him a little bit of credit for the time he has put into rehab."