"Terrific weather outside," someone said to Roger McDowell as sleet pounded against the warehouse window yesterday afternoon.
"Terrific weather if you're a penguin," said McDowell, the Orioles' newest relief pitcher.
And the Orioles were that much more interesting again.
Better, too? Well, the club certainly hopes that McDowell and new closer Randy Myers -- both of whom were introduced to local reporters yesterday -- will improve the bullpen. With 1,225 major-league appearances between them, they already have made it more accomplished and professional.
But while new GM Pat Gillick signed them for their pitching, not their personalities, it was clear yesterday that McDowell and Myers will also bring changes, welcome changes, to the club's personality.
The Orioles were dull last year, period. They took defeat well, lacked fire on the bench, basically just slept through the season. Bobby Bonilla enlivened things a little bit after coming over from the Mets late in the season, but not before admitting to Elrod Hendricks that he was amazed at his new club's lifelessness.
If anything, McDowell and Myers will help bring the club back to life.
McDowell, who pitched for the Rangers last year, has a bookish countenance and that gleam in his eye; the gleam of a prankster. He has appeared on an episode of "Seinfeld," caught balls in the bullpen with his cap and pulled numerous practical jokes, some of which are repeatable here.
"In Dodger Stadium, there's a bullpen toilet with a door that faces the crowd," McDowell said. "One time when I was with the Mets, Jesse Orosco went in there and closed the door. Well, I waited a minute and opened the door and, well, the whole crowd was watching Jesse sit there."
Such stories hearken to the old Orioles tradition of bullpen jollity, which dates to the days of the master, Moe Drabowsky. Moe once used the bullpen phone to order Chinese food and have it delivered during a game. He also once called the opposing bullpen and, disguising his voice in imitation of the opposing manager, asked that a relief pitcher start warming up. A few minutes later, he called back and ordered the pitcher to sit down.
After he went from the Orioles to the Royals late in his career, he stood up in the third inning early one Sunday afternoon (after a very late Saturday night) and presided over a mock funeral of a passed-out teammate in the bullpen.
"You really can't do stuff like that anymore," McDowell said. "But if we can't carry on the tradition, we can certainly carry on having fun. And that all gets back to winning. If you prepare yourself to get ready to do your job, then perform well and win, the guidelines for what you can get away with aren't going to be as strict."
Nice to hear a ballplayer worrying about what he can "get away with." The Orioles can use such a shot of originality and sheer liveliness.
Not to cast McDowell in an improper light, understand. He is a consummate pro and utterly dependable, having made 215 appearances in the past four seasons. And yesterday he wanted no part of reporters' insinuations that he would enliven things.
"I'm just a little cog, a little piece," he said. "This team is already basically set, and it's a good team. Hey, I'm Roger McDowell, not Jack McDowell. Teams weren't exactly knocking down my door since the season ended. I just want to fit in."
Myers, as the new closer, is a larger cog. And while he is certainly not the schemer or dry wit that McDowell is, he brings to the mix another welcomed intangible: intensity.
Although he was in his off-season mode yesterday, relaxed and affable, it was not hard to detect the tightly wound strings inside him. He has a crushing handshake and looks you right in the eye when you're talking to him. It was easy to envision him working himself into a froth before he goes out to close a one-run game.
"He's going to make things real interesting around here, that's for sure," Orioles farm director Syd Thrift said last week.
Myers is vocal in the clubhouse and studious in pitchers' meetings, a total team guy. When Jim Riggleman took over as manager of the Cubs last year and asked Myers to lose the headband he had always worn during pre-game workouts, Myers relented without a peep.
"He's got a lot of presence," Riggleman said.
Yet another commodity the Orioles were lacking this year.
"Some reporters have told me it was a low-key clubhouse here," he said. "I don't know about that. I just know that I'm going to continue to be myself. And I know that it's important to have fun. The baseball season is awfully long. Seven months. Going on eight months if you make the playoffs. Which is what we're looking to do around here."