With four solid starts, Mesa is arming himself for a shot at '91 rotation

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

TORONTO -- Righthander Jose Mesa has the arm strength the Orioles covet, and he has pitched into the sixth inning in each of his four starts. So, does he have a chance of cracking the starting rotation next season? Absolutely, pitching coach Al Jackson said.

"You've got to be crazy if you say he doesn't," Jackson said afteMesa defeated Toronto 5-3 last night. "With an arm like that, you've got to give him a chance. It makes it a dogfight. But that's what this game is all about."

Mesa, 24, took a shutout into the seventh inning, beating thteam that traded him along with pitcher Oswald Peraza for lefthander Mike Flanagan on Aug. 31, 1987. He's still a long shot for the 1991 rotation, but as Jackson indicated, he might make the Orioles think twice.

Ben McDonald is a certain starter next year and Pete Harniscprobably is too. Last year's top winners, Jeff Ballard and Bob Milacki, must prove they've recovered from arm trouble. This year's top winner, Dave Johnson, is a logical No. 4 or 5.

The Orioles, though, are expected to make a strong attempt tacquire a veteran starter, so all speculation is premature. Mesa has emerged as a legitimate contender after a rapid return from reconstructive elbow surgery. Jackson said his comeback makes things "rosier."

Robinson said, "I've liked what I've seen from the beginningHe's staying consistent for a longer period each time out. The first couple of times he had a lapse, a bad inning. But each time he's taken his stuff a little longer."

Mesa said he will not play winter ball in the offseason, livininstead in tropical Rochester, N.Y. Robinson said the club does not envision him as a reliever at this point, but Mesa said, "I'll do whatever they want. My arm will be in better shape."

In any case, last night ranked as the highlight of his brief careerMesa lost to the Blue Jays in one of his five 1987 starts, and he was delighted to finally extract his revenge. "I've been waiting three years," he said, laughing. "I got it."

* SHOWING SIGNS: Rookie first baseman David Segui wen2-for-4 with a two-run double, and is 6-for-16 since missing nine days with a bruised right knee. Robinson said he will continue to look overmatched at times, but added, "He's starting to contribute, starting to do some things."

Segui, 24, is expected to play a half-season of winter ball in thDominican Republic. His offseason goal is to regain the strength lost after undergoing surgery on his right wrist Jan. 12. He batted .336 in his first year at Rochester, but was disappointed he hit only two homers.

The Orioles expect Segui will eventually demonstrate gap powerbut he said he is still 10 pounds underweight. "I'm going to lift my butt off this winter, so I can do the things I'm capable of doing," he said. "Right now, I don't feel I am."

The injured Randy Milligan almost certainly will return at firsbase next season, but the switch-hitting Segui still could fit into the Orioles' plans, especially if the club declines the option on Ron Kittle's contract.

* A TRUE PIONEER: Don't give up on this season yet. ThOrioles might be good for one more rags-to-riches story -- if they do the right thing and promote lefthander Daniel Boone once Rochester completes the Triple A Alliance playoffs.

Boone, 36, hasn't pitched in the majors since 1982, and thiseason he returned to pro ball for the first time since '84. He signed with the Orioles at the suggestion of scout Birdie Tebbetts, who saw him unveil a knuckleball while pitching for Bradenton in the Senior League.

No one will ever confuse the 5-foot-8 Boone with the 6-foot-7 BeMcDonald. He weighed 137 pounds when he made 37 relief appearances for San Diego in '81. The Orioles' media guide lists him at 140. Whatever, he went 11-5 with a 2.60 ERA for Rochester this season.

"You laugh because he signed out of the Senior League, yolaugh because of his size, you laugh because of his age," Robinson said. "But the guy has pitched in the big leagues before. It's not a circus-type thing."

* TOO GOOD? After McDonald beat Detroit on WednesdayTigers hitting instructor Vada Pinson said the Orioles rookie compares favorably to Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax at the start their careers. The reason: McDonald throws as hard and has better control.

Robinson agreed -- "He's way ahead of those guys as far athat's concerned" -- but said he'd actually prefer McDonald to be a little more wild. "I like what he's doing right now," Robinson said. "But the scary part is, he might be even more effective if his control wasn't as good."

More on McDonald from Robinson: "This kid wants to learn. Hasks questions. We sit in meetings. He asks, 'What do you mean' or 'How do you get this guy out?' We've got other guys if you say, 'Any questions?' they'll say, 'No.' But he's into the game."

* THE 100-100 CLUB: Orioles catcher Mickey Tettleton is jusone walk away from becoming only the sixth AL player since 1970 to finish with 100 strikeouts and 100 walks in the same season. Tettleton, who had his first RBI of September last night, has 148 strikeouts and 99 walks.

The other 100-100 men in the last 20 years: Fred McGrif(Toronto, 1989); Jack Clark (New York Yankees, 1988); Dwight Evans (Boston, 1982 and '85); Ken Singleton (Orioles, 1977 and '79); and Gene Tenace (Oakland, 1974).

* AROUND THE HORN: Milligan swung a bat for the third straighday yesterday, hitting balls tossed softly by hitting instructor Tom McCraw. Milligan (separated left shoulder) said he expects to take five minutes of batting practice today. His goal is to play in theae Boston series starting Monday.

It was a rough night for Mike Devereaux, the only Orioles startewithout a hit. His 0-for-4 included an inning-ending double play with men on first and third, an unsuccessful sacrifice attempt and a fly to left that failed to score Sam Horn from third. He also was caught stealing, and is 0-for-5 in that department since Aug. 20.

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