McDonald to take it easy in opener


SARASOTA, Fla. -- Right-hander Ben McDonald is scheduled to pitch three innings today when the Baltimore Orioles open their Grapefruit League exhibition schedule against the Chicago White Sox, but he is on guard against doing too much.

He suffered a muscle strain in his side during a preseason game last year, which cost him half of his rookie season and might have cost him a chance at the American League Rookie of the Year award.

"It was a freak think, so I'm not worried about doing it again," McDonald said, "but I have done some exercises to strengthen that area.

"It's a different year and a new start. I'm just going to try and build toward the first game of the season."

McDonald is scheduled to face Chicago's Jack McDowell in the spring opener. He will be followed to the mound by Jose Mesa, Dave Johnson and Kevin Hickey.

* Manager Frank Robinson said that incumbent third baseman Craig Worthington would be in the starting lineup today. Challenger Leo Gomez probably will start tomorrow's game against the Texas Rangers in Port Charlotte.

"It'll probably go back and forth until the last few days of the spring," Robinson said.

The job is Worthington's to lose, but he will lose it if he cannot come back strong from a disappointing 1990 season.

* The pitchers took a beating in yesterday's intrasquad game, but left-hander Dan Boone was a notable exception.

He pitched two scoreless innings, beguiling hitters with a knuckleball made all the more animated by the strong breeze blowing in his face.

"It was working halfway decent," said Boone, who gave up two soft hits and struck out two. "I couldn't get it over as well as I wanted because I still have a screwed-up fingernail, but I felt pretty good."

Boone, 37, holds out hope of winning a place in the Orioles bullpen, but the odds appear to be long. Robinson said yesterday that a lot of pitchers are ahead of Boone, but that nothing is impossible.

"In my position, I'm pretty much in the dark," Boone said. "I think if I pitch well, I'll have a shot. If I have to go back to Rochester, I'll be disappointed, but I feel I've got a chance to stay around awhile and come back up."

* The black-jerseyed team won the intrasquad game for the second day in a row, thanks in part to big offensive performances by Bill Ripken and Tim Hulett.

Ripken had two hits and two RBI and scored two runs. Hulett had three hits and an RBI and scored a run. Utility player Jeff McKnight went 3-for-3 for the orange team.

Right-hander Jose Bautista pitched two strong innings, giving up one hit. Reliever Francisco de la Rosa pitched the final inning for both teams and also gave up one hit.

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