SARASOTA, Fla. -- Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer is long gone, which means Mike Flanagan's comeback attempt finally is going public.
The question no longers appears to be whether he'll make the club this spring but rather whether he'll eventually find his way into the Baltimore Orioles' starting rotation.
Flanagan was the starter last night at Ed Smith Stadium, throwing four strong innings against the Chicago White Sox in his second appearance of the Grapefruit League exhibition season. The Orioles lost, 8-7, in 11 innings.
The White Sox scored twice in the fourth inning, but both runs crossed the plate after right fielder Jeff McKnight dropped a two-out fly ball that would have sent Flanagan home with a string of seven scoreless innings in exhibition play.
"I just more or less built on the last [outing]," Flanagan said. "My first game was pretty decent. I made some adjustments, and I thought this was much better."
The first time out, a strong crosswind kept Flanagan from throwing his curveball effectively, but he was successful with it last night. He mixed his pitches well and held the White Sox to a pair of singles and a bloop triple.
"I felt pretty good about tonight's effort," Flanagan said. "That was pretty much their 'A' lineup and they are a pretty good hitting club. There are times when you pitch the way you want to and other times when you pitch the way you have to. Tonight, I was able to pitch the way I wanted to."
No one has said where Flanagan fits into the pitching picture, but it seems likely he will start the season in middle relief and be available as a spot starter. The Orioles have plenty of candidates for the rotation, but Flanagan is not out of the question.
"I try not to think about it," he said. "I'm taking each outing one at a time. I came down here with an open mind. I came down as a pitcher."
Though it is becoming more and more apparent that he will make the club if he remains healthy, Flanagan refuses to get ahead of himself.
"It's either going to be opening day of the baseball season or opening day of the trout season," he said. "Both start around the same time."
* Left-hander Dan Boone made his Grapefruit League debut with a scoreless 10th inning, but his knuckleball cost the Orioles the game in the 11th.
Boone walked Orsino Hill to open the 11th. Hill moved up on a sacrifice bunt and came around on a pair of knucklers that floated past rookie catcher Doug Robbins.
* It might be awhile before Dwight Evans makes an appearance in the outfield. He has been hampered by tendinitis in his right knee and has limited himself to a couple of games in the designated-hitter role.
He started last night for only the second time in the Orioles' first eight games, lining out in his first at-bat and walking twice before he taken out for a pinch runner in the fifth inning.
"I'm getting there," Evans said. "I've got some problems I have to take care of before I can think about going into the outfield. I'm trying. I've got a little tendinitis in my knee, and I'm going to let it settle down. I want to get out there."
LTC Manager Frank Robinson has given Evans a free hand in determining the pace of his spring preparation, but Evans knows that cannot last forever.
"He has treated me so well," Evans said, "He took me aside at the start of spring training and said: 'If you can play right field, that would be great for the club. But if you have to DH, that'll be fine. He took all the pressure off me. When a manager treats you like that, you want to run through walls for him. But I know there will come a time when he'll say, 'Hey, I need to know.' "
* White Sox right-hander Alex Fernandez hadn't faced the Orioles since he pitched against them as a collegian in a 1989 exhibition game between Baltimore and the University of Miami, but he wasted no time getting their attention.
Fernandez struck out the side in the first inning and shut out the Orioles through the third, giving up only singles to Leo Gomez and Bob Melvin. He finally gave up a run in the fourth, when Melvin's second hit of the game drove home Evans.
* Randy Milligan is scheduled to test his sprained ankle in today's 'B' game against the Twins at Fort Myers.