SARASOTA, Fla. -- Baltimore Orioles manager Frank Robinson said yesterday that he will withhold any judgment on Jim Palmer's comeback attempt until the third time the Hall of Fame right-hander takes the mound in exhibition play.
"I don't judge anybody on the first time out or even the second," Robinson said. "But by the third time, a pitcher should have his mechanics down. You should be able to see something."
Palmer has been in camp for nine workouts and has experienced significant setbacks. He will pitch batting practice again today and is scheduled to throw in Wednesday's intrasquad game before entering Grapefruit League competition.
"I should know how I'm throwing after three starts," he said. "Right now, it's all a matter of speculation. It's going to be their decision and they'll make it. Whether it's three starts or four or five, I have no problem with that."
Robinson told Palmer at the outset that he could have all six weeks of spring training to prove he can pitch at the major league level. But it seems unlikely that the comeback attempt will last that long if Palmer is ineffective for an extended period.
"I'm not painted into a corner on six weeks," Robinson said. "I think he'll be the first to realize it if he can't do it."
* The Orioles were limited to a half-day of workouts for the second time in four days. Torrential rains swept over Twin Lakes Park yesterday morning and forced batting practice to be moved indoors.
* Left-hander Joe Price was in uniform for yesterday's workout, but he remains disappointed that he will not be able to pitch for the Orioles until May 1.
"The situation is tolerable," Price said, "but I can't see the logic of the PRC decision."
The Player Relations Committee refused to waive a rule that prevents Price from joining the Orioles at the major league level before May 1, even though his back injury caused the club to pass on a contract option for 1991. He has been allowed to spend the spring in the big-league camp, but will have to pitch for the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings for at least the first 23 days of the season.
Price indicated that if he has to pitch in the minor leagues, he would prefer to pitch for the Class AA Hagerstown Suns so he could stay close to his family. But the club wants him facing the toughest competition possible.
* Randy Milligan continues to work out in left field, and said yesterday that he would rather play the outfield than be a full-time designated hitter.
"It doesn't matter as far as myself is concerned," he said, "but it would be better for the team if I could play left field regularly."
Milligan, who has played mostly as a first baseman in the majors, is a little rough around the edges as an outfielder, but he said he remains enthusiastic about the experiment.
Here how the Orioles have set up the pitching for the first five days of the exhibition season:
* Thursday vs. Chicago White Sox: Ben McDonald, Jose Mesa, Dave Johnson, Kevin Hickey.
* Sunday vs. New York Yankees: Mike Mussina, Mike Flanagan, Arthur Rhodes, Mike Linskey, Mark Williamson.
* March 11 vs. Boston Red Sox: Jim Palmer, McDonald, Martinez, Boone.
* March 11 vs. Chicago White Sox ("B" game): Mesa, Johnson, Kilgus, Smith.