They may not be the best, or even the most versatile, bench in baseball but the reserve troops for the California Angels get high marks for imagination -- and devotion to the cause.
With ex-Oriole Dave Gallagher one of the ringleaders, the Angels' utility types have come up with the nickname SCUDS -- Sitting Comfortably Until Deployed Squadron. Gallagher, Donnie Hill (the squadron leader), Jack Howell and Max Venable are the members in good standing.
"We don't know when or where we're going to land, but when we do, we're going to do some damage," said Hill, who until recently was in danger of losing his SCUDS status when he started nine times in a stretch of 11 games.
"He seemed to be pretty worried about it [losing his rank as squadron leader]," said Gallagher. That's when Hill jokingly coined the SCUDS motto -- "Bench me or trade me."
When unleashed from the bench, the SCUDS have been inflicting their share of damage. Through midweek they had a collective batting average of .287 (31-for-108) with 11 runs batted in.
* MR. VERSATILITY: If he wasn't such a regular performer, Tony Phillips would be the ideal leader for the S.C.U.D.S.
The season isn't even two months old and the Detroit Tigers have already used Phillips at seven positions, including designated hitter. He hasn't pitched, caught or played first base, but he's done just about everything else except make out the lineup card for manager Sparky Anderson.
* HEY DIBBLE, DIBBLE: Right down the middle. You want to see the most incredible pitching line in baseball, Roger Clemens not excluded?
Think about this one. Cincinnati reliever Rob Dibble had 30 strikeouts and only two walks in his first 18 innings. Of course he's been known to hit people on occasion. Is that scary or what?
And Randy Myers is upset because he's playing second fiddle to Dibble.
* JUST FOR COMPARISON: Now you know why Atlanta signed third baseman Terry Pendleton and first baseman Sid Bream as free agents. Last year the Braves had 52 errors at those two positions. They had only three in the first five weeks at those two spots this year. Three? Hmmmmm . . . what does that remind you of?
* THREE TIMES THE FUN: The Frederick Keys' 2-1 loss last night in Lynchburg featured the third triple play in Keys' history. It came in the bottom of the fourth, with runners at first and second.
Keys shortstop Manny Alexander fielded a line drive by Lynchburg's Greg Graham. The runners were moving on the pitch, and Alexander doubled Willie Tatum off second and threw to first to nail Chris Leach for the triple play.
When Mike Schooler returns to the Seattle bullpen it might be as a setup man. Mike Jackson recently went through a stretch (that included the Orioles twice) when he retired 31 of 33 batters he faced.
Put a mark next to this in your blue-chip book: Seattle third baseman Edgar Martinez is too good to be hidden by the shadow of Ken Griffey Jr.
You have to love Randy Milligan's post reception quip about meeting the Queen of England. "I wanted to ask her if she had a satellite dish," said the Orioles first baseman.
The word is out that neither Bob Welch nor Dennis Eckersley has the same velocity of a year ago, which could be bad news for the Oakland A's as they try to win their fourth straight American League pennant.
Don't forget, keep an eye on the Mariners.
Yes, that is ex-Oriole Mike Morgan leading the National League with a 1.38 earned run average. Ex-Oriole Dennis Martinez is second (1.71) and ex-Oriole Pete Harnisch is fourth (1.97).
Orel Hershiser is working his way through the Dodgers' farm system and should be ready for delivery to the big leagues at any time. In two rehabilitation starts, one at Single A and one at Triple A, Hershiser has pitched 10 innings, giving up no runs or walks and striking out eight.
The Chicago Cubs, who lead the major leagues with 39 home runs, have hit at least one in 14 straight games, matching a club record set in 1961 and equaled in 1987.
* IMPERTINENT QUESTIONS: Just wondering -- how much did it cost per minute for the two-hour visit to Memorial Stadium by President Bush and Queen Elizabeth?
Only 140 days left until the last weekend of the season -- how many more partial plans have to be sold before the last three games are announced as sellouts?
How come the Cleveland Indians are third in the league in pitching, fifth in hitting and still challenging the Orioles?
Since Roger Clemens didn't get the decision (i.e. win) in his last start, does that mean he's in a slump?
Isn't it getting close to the time when the Orioles jump-start Arthur Rhodes at the Triple A level to hasten his preparation for the big leagues?
Now that Howard Spira has been dealt with, when will we next hear from George Steinbrenner?
What are the odds on the Orioles ever having their best 25 players on the roster at the same time -- this year?
What's the big deal about Ernie Tyler sitting on a stool for 2,500 straight games (as the Orioles' field attendant)? Is that as tough as helping to raise 11 children (which he also did)?
Is there any practical reason why umpires are not covered by the umbrella of the commissioner's office, rather than the two competing leagues?
Why doesn't Rickey Henderson have a mustard commercial?
Is that pitching depth stacked up in the Orioles' system real or imagined? And where does it start?