SARASOTA, Fla. -- In their first 31 years of existence, the Orioles employed a grand total of three pitching coaches.
But when the pitchers and catchers formally open spring training here tomorrow, the club will unveil its fifth pitching coach in seven seasons.
Welcome to the hot seat, Dick Bosman. Job security has not been one of the perks lately.
"I'm not concerned about that one bit," Bosman said here yesterday, as he prepared to debut as a major-league coach. "This is a new start. It's something I've worked for, and I feel very confident.
"Not that we're going to perform miracles right away -- but I have a good feeling. If we can come out of spring training healthy, we've got a chance to be representative real quick."
Bosman knows the fates of his immediate predecessors were tied to the performance of the Orioles pitching staff that has bordered on horrendous for the better part of a decade. More than anything else, the decline in pitching talent caused the team's steady decline from the world-championship season of 1983.
"I think we can benefit from what happened in the past -- but we're not going to dwell on it," said Bosman, referring to last year, when Orioles starters gave up three or more runs in the first three innings in 43 games, earning Al Jackson a pink slip after three years as the team's pitching coach.
As is the case with any change, Bosman will bring his own approach to the job. Having worked in the organization for four years, first as a roving instructor and the last three years with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings, Bosman is familiar with most candidates for this year's staff.
One thing Orioles pitchers can expect this year is to spend a lot of time talking about their occupation. "I'm a big believer in preparing yourself to pitch," said Bosman, who watched a lot of good ones during his 10 years in the major leagues.
"We'll talk a lot and hopefully go into the first inning with a good game plan," said Bosman.
"I learned an awful lot watching Gaylord Perry prepare himself to pitch a game," said Bosman, who was a teammate of his in Cleveland. "There's a lot more to it than just going out and warming up."
A year ago, the Orioles came to camp with Ben McDonald entrenched as their No. 1 starter -- even though he had less than a year's experience. This year McDonald's name is mentioned only in concert with the other two "M's" in the starting rotation -- Bob Milacki and Mike Mussina.
"I'm optimistic we'll be better because those three guys have another year's experience," said Bosman. "A year ago, Mussina wasn't even in our immediate plans and Milacki was coming off an injury."
This year, instead of gearing everything around McDonald, Bosman hopes to take the opposite approach. "I want to take as much pressure off him as we can," he said. "Maybe too much was asked of him too soon.
"Then he came down with some arm miseries -- and everybody is entitled to that. Maybe we can put the spotlight somewhere else and let him settle in."
There is no question that Milacki, Mussina and McDonald, not necessarily in that order, hold the key to the Orioles' rotation. But they won't hold it together by themselves.
"Hopefully, Storm Davis and Rick Sutcliffe will give us the experience and the innings we're looking for," said Bosman. "If they do that, it can only make the bullpen better."
A year ago, manager John Oates, and Frank Robinson before him, went through relief pitchers and aspirin at approximately the same pace. And even though ace closer Gregg Olson had an off year by his standards (4-6 record, 3.18 ERA, 31 saves in 1991; down from 6-5, 2.42 and 37 in 1990), the bullpen more than carried its load.
"[Todd] Frohwirth re-established himself and [Jim] Poole showed he could throw both the fastball and slider for strikes," said Bosman, who had both at Rochester early in the year. "And [Mike] Flanagan fit into a role some people were unsure he could handle.
"Olson had a good year as relievers go -- but not as good as he can have," said Bosman, who worked with the right-hander during the Instructional League last fall. "He has a tremendous willingness to make some changes and improve in areas where he came up short."
The same holds true for the entire staff. The addition of a couple of experienced arms and a healthy spring for the younger candidates could help Bosman establish job security.
"There's no question it comes down to pitching," said Bosman. "We're going to catch the ball and we're going to hit the ball. If we pitch, we can be right in the middle of everything."