Strained Achilles' tendon has Palmer on shaky footing


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Jim Palmer will make his 1991 exhibition debut against the Boston Red Sox today, but only if the Hall of Fame right-hander is able to pitch with a strained right Achilles' tendon.

Palmer has been hobbled the past few days, but says he will make his scheduled start in the Baltimore Orioles' Grapefruit League "home" opener at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.

Manager Frank Robinson has left the decision entirely up to Palmer, who has been building toward this appearance since he began his unlikely comeback attempt in December.

Palmer has thrown only once against live competition, making a two-inning appearance in an intrasquad game Wednesday. Club officials are eager to see whether he can be effective against rival hitters, but Robinson said that he would not judge Palmer on one appearance.

Orioles fans can judge for themselves. The game will be telecast on Home Team Sports.

Today's game is the first of nine games in which the Orioles will be designated the home team in a stadium that is not really their home. They are host for three games at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, two games at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami and two at RFK Stadium in Washington. The other is a split-squad game with the Montreal Expos at Pompano Beach.

* The Orioles also have a "B" game scheduled today. Right-handers Jose Mesa and Dave Johnson are expected to pitch four innings each against the Chicago White Sox at Ed Smith Stadium. Knuckleballer Charlie Hough will start for the White Sox.

* No. 1 draft choice Mike Mussina made his exhibition debut yesterday and made a good impression in the first inning. He struck out the first batter he faced (Jim Walewander) and broke two bats before getting Pat Sheridan on a ground out. Don Mattingly closed out the inning with a soft liner to third.

The second inning didn't go quite so well. The Yankees scored an unearned run on two hits and an error by Cal Ripken to take the lead. But Mussina's first outing (three innings pitched, one run, no earned runs and three hits) was an unqualified success.

"I was satisfied," Mussina said, "but it was too windy. You can't work on anything when the toughest thing to do out there is stand up."

* Catcher Chris Hoiles hit a windblown three-run homer off reliever Jeff Johnson in the top of the 10th inning to give the Orioles a 6-3 victory and improve their Grapefruit League record to 3-1.

Veteran catcher Ernie Whitt brought the Orioles from behind in the seventh inning with his first exhibition home run of 1991, and third baseman Leo Gomez gave Baltimore the lead in the eighth with an RBI single, but rookie pitcher Arthur Rhodes allowed the tying run in the ninth.

* Reliever Gregg Olson is scheduled to make his first exhibition appearance in tomorrow's game against the Texas Rangers at Ed Smith Stadium. Olson has been on a limited workout schedule that is intended to save his arm for the regular season. Robinson figures to use him sparingly in Grapefruit League competition.

* Right-hander Mark Williamson made his first competitive appearance since breaking his hand last August, and was satisfied with the results. He worked two innings and gave up a run on one hit.

"Considering I hadn't faced a batter since August, it was all right," Williamson said. "I really didn't put the ball where I wanted it, but I didn't get hurt either. It went fine."

* Newly acquired minor-league prospect Paul Carey was scheduled to join the Orioles in Sarasota last night. His contract was purchased from the Class A Miami Miracle earlier this spring after the Orioles were the highest bidder in a silent auction for his services.

* Time is running short for the three Orioles players who remain unsigned. Randy Milligan, Mike Devereaux and Olson have two more days to come to terms before the club is required to renew their contracts.

The club can renew at any figure it chooses (as long as it doesn't cut anyone's salary by more than 20 percent), but all parties would like to avoid the bad feelings that often accompany an automatic renewal.

* First baseman/outfielder David Segui made his first exhibition appearance after he missed the first three games with a strained muscle in his left buttock.

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