SARASOTA, Fla. -- As far as Jeff Ballard is concerned, he has regained his place in the Baltimore Orioles' starting rotation.
"I felt I was in it coming in," said Ballard after yielding only one tainted run yesterday in a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins. "Now I know it."
Ballard has permitted two runs and 13 hits in 17 innings thi spring and has a 1.06 ERA. He has nine strikeouts, has walked only two and has not allowed a home run.
"I hope I'll be the No. 2 guy," he said. "I feel I should be based o how I've thrown. But after the first 10 days of the season, it doesn't matter what number you are. Your turns come around."
Two of the hits against him yesterday never left the infield an he threw two double-play pitches to escape trouble.
"My mechanics were very good," he said. "With the wind blowing the way it was I was trying to do different things to get some action on the ball.
"Today wasn't the best I've thrown it, but I battled out of a couple of jams and I've gotten in all my scheduled innings. My doubts have been put to rest."
Ballard is rebounding from a 2-11 season, which he finished i the bullpen.
* Pitching coach Al Jackson said Ben McDonald will receive " few days off this time" and throw on the side before his next spring-training start.
"The last two we want him on a five-day cycle so he will go int opening day with his normal rest," said Jackson. "He's the only one we've done a little juggling with so far."
McDonald's last outing was Thursday when he gave up four run and five hits in four innings against Toronto. He continued to throw in the bullpen after leaving the game.
Jackson also is beginning to pitch the prime relievers, Mar Williamson and Gregg Olson, on consecutive days or with only one day between appearances.
"It's time to get them ready," he said.
* Team president Larry Lucchino said the Orioles are not in th market to "buy any airplanes," but are exploring "alternative ways to travel" this season.
That could mean a lease-type arrangement for Boeing 72 aircraft used by National Basketball Association teams.
"Nothing has been completed yet," said Lucchino.
* The Orioles have pledged 100,000 tickets for home games thi year to the servicemen and women who served in Operation Desert Storm, their families and members of the military who supported the war effort.
The tickets will be made available for 34 weekday games and distributed by the morale, welfare and recreation offices at military bases in the area.
"[Orioles owner] Eli Jacobs had the inspiration for this program," said Lucchino. "He felt that the Orioles should, in some small way, recognize the extraordinary efforts of our military men and women of Desert Storm . . . "
* It finally happened. After 23 innings in the outfield this spring, Randy Milligan collected his first putout yesterday.
Milligan easily handled a line drive by Chuck Knoblauch for th first out of the game and later caught a routine fly ball.
"That was a tough chance because there was no angle on th ball," said Robinson. "Sometimes that one right at you is the hardest.
"He'll be all right out there. He's going to make some mistakes. It's not the end of the world if he does. I just want him to relax."
* Cal and Bill Ripken will be in Haines City, Fla., early today t film a TV promotion for major league baseball. They will be joined by George Brett, Ozzie Smith and Ken Griffey Jr . . . Cal raised his average two more points yesterday by going 2-for-4. He has 12 hits in his last 17 at-bats and is hitting .455.