The great thing about doing an interview with a great talker like former Orioles pitcher Rick Sutcliffe is that when you're done, you've got enough for a nice column on his first pitch at Camden Yards and you usually have a little left over in case the game goes into extra innings.

     Most of Rick's recollections are in the column, but he expanded on the reason why Johnny Oates wanted him to come to Baltimore to throw that first pitch and be the leader on an Oriole pitching staff that included young stars Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald.

     "I wasn't really the best option for Opening Day,'' Sutcliffe said. "Mike Mussina was the best option if you just wanted to win the game. But Johnny didn't want him going up against the Charlie Nagys and the Jack Morrises and Roger Clemens every start. He felt that I could hold my own against them and with Mike and Ben going up against everybody else's No. 2 and No. 3 starters, we'd be in great shape.

     "And we were. We were in it all the way until the last couple of weeks. It was a great experience."

     Sutcliffe, like a lot of people around here, remembers how the ballpark was all but sold out for every game during his two years in Baltimore, and he counts himself very lucky to have played in several cities with terrific fan followings.

     "There were those two years I spent in Cleveland (in the 1980s), but I bet I played in front of more sellout crowds than a big majority of the other baseball players,'' he said. "I was blessed to start out at Dodger Stadium, which was sold out almost every night back then, and Wrigley, Oriole Park and then St. Louis.

     "I didn't play in front of a whole lot of empty seats."