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Palmer strains Achilles' start tomorrow uncertain


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer strained his right Achilles' tendon Friday, putting his upcoming exhibition appearance against the Boston Red Sox in jeopardy, but he said yesterday that he still intends to make his scheduled start tomorrow.

Palmer arrived at Twin Lakes Park early yesterday with a noticeable limp and decided not to accompany the Baltimore Orioles on their two-day trip to Fort Lauderdale.

"There was no point in making the trip," he said. "They don't have the exercise equipment I need there, and it would have been a media circus anyway. But I want to pitch [tomorrow]."

The trip was a non-issue anyway. Palmer originally had asked to be included so that he could pick up his wife and gather some things at his Key Biscayne apartment. He chose instead to continue working out at Twin Lakes Park in anticipation of tomorrow's start.

Palmer said two weeks ago that any significant injury would end his comeback attempt, but he stopped short of saying he would give it up if the Achilles' strain kept him out of tomorrow's start.

"The point is, as long as I can make an effort and throw decently, I owe it to myself to be out there," he said. "If your body doesn't allow you to pitch properly, you've got to do something, but that's not the case. If the Achilles' became a lingering thing, that might be different."

Manager Frank Robinson said Palmer still was on the spring pitching schedule and would remain there unless or until he decides he doesn't want to continue.

"He decided not to come, but it was no big deal," Robinson said. "He was coming for personal reasons anyway. He's going to pitch [tomorrow] unless he tells me otherwise."

* The Orioles pitching staff's scoreless string ended at 19 innings when Don Mattingly drove home a run with a sacrifice fly in the second inning of yesterday's 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

But Orioles starter Jeff Robinson probably should have been out the inning before Mattingly came to the plate. Steve Balboni led off the inning with a windblown fly ball that fell between outfielders Mike Devereaux and Brady Anderson for a double. Mike Blowers put Balboni into position to score with a bloop single to right.

No matter. Robinson was rocked solidly in the third, giving up four runs on six hits before giving way to Anthony Telford. Mattingly delivered the big blow, a three-run homer to right.

"I really don't concern myself with the outcome at this point," Jeff Robinson said. "I look at, did I throw strikes, did I have a clue, was I all over the place? Sure, I would have liked to have gone out there and thrown three scoreless innings, but there were a lot of hits that wouldn't have been hits on a normal day."

Robinson said the home run was the first he has given up to Mattingly.

"In my opinion, he's one of the three best hitters in the game, and I've always had good luck against him," Robinson said. "Knock on wood."

The manager did not seem terrible concerned about Jeff Robinson's nine-hit performance.

"I liked the way he threw," Frank Robinson said. "There were some hits that should have been outs. It wasn't that bad."

* Shortstop Cal Ripken hit a bases-empty home run off Dave Eiland in the fourth inning. Ripken has two hit in his first six spring at-bats.

* As expected, Randy Milligan and Larry Sheets were not in the Orioles traveling party. Milligan has a sprained right ankle, and Sheets has been complaining of back soreness.

* There are six pitchers who have been led to believe that they will be in the starting rotation if they pitch well this spring, which means that something is going to have to give before Opening Day.

If all goes well, somebody is going to be the odd man out, and that somebody might be Jose Mesa, who still could be optioned back to the minor leagues if he doesn't fit in.

"If he's going to be here, he's going to be a starter," Robinson said. "I don't think Mesa can work out of the bullpen after coming off surgery."

Of course, roster surpluses have a way of working themselves out, but Robinson is prepared to make the tough choice if all six potential starters pitch well all spring.

"That'll make my job a lot tougher," he said, "which I hope they do."

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