ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Right-hander Mike Mussina opened spring training of 1992 with a string of 10 1/3 hitless innings, but that won't be necessary this year.
Mussina gave up a run on two hits over two innings in the Orioles' 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday at Al Lang Stadium, but still considered his first exhibition appearance of 1993 to be a success.
"Last year, I was trying to win a spot in the rotation, so I was more focused on getting people out," he said. "Now, I'm more focused on getting ready for April."
His 18-5 record last year removed any doubt about his status with the club. The only question is whether he will be on the mound for the season opener when the Orioles play host to the Texas Rangers on April 5.
In the meantime, he is trying to do the almost impossible -- finding a way to improve on a 1992 performance that made him one of the most effective pitchers in the game.
"You can always improve," he said. "Last year, April wasn't really a very good month for me. I was winning with my fastball and my changeup. It took until May for me to get the curveball going. This year, the focus of camp has been to have the breaking pitch working a month earlier than last year."
Mussina admits to being far more relaxed this year than he was in either 1991 or '92, and he has a new look to go with his new outlook. He is sprouting another goatee, no doubt hoping it comes in better than the one he attempted during the club's facial hair fad last summer.
"This is my rebel-without-a-contract look," said Mussina, one of two Orioles who remain unsigned. His contract situation should become more clear this week, when agent Arn Tellum arrives in camp for face-to-face negotiations with the Orioles.
Left-hander Mike Flanagan was scheduled to follow Mussina to the mound, but he had to be scratched from the assignment with what manager Johnny Oates described as "very slight" stiffness in his shoulder.
Flanagan was replaced in yesterday's bullpen rotation by newcomer Wayne Edwards, who gave up two runs on two hits in his first appearance as an Oriole and was charged with the loss.
"Mike experienced some slight stiffness in his second inning of work in the intrasquad game," Oates said. "We decided it would be best to shut him down for a few days and make sure it's OK before he throws."
McLemore catching on
Utility man Mark McLemore made a diving catch in left field to rob Tim Jones of a seemingly certain base hit in the eighth inning.
Perhaps that wouldn't normally be noteworthy in an exhibition game, but it was the first time that McLemore has played in the outfield as an Oriole. Oates is hoping that he can adapt to a sometime outfield role to increase his versatility.
"He looks like he belongs out there," Oates said. "He looks like he's been out there his whole life. It's going to help a lot if he can play out there, and it looks like he'll be able to play any of the outfield positions."
McLemore enjoyed making the big play, but he apparently sees the outfield assignment as another way to increase the number of at-bats he gets this season.
"I'm into doing whatever the manager wants me to do," McLemore said of whether he preferred the infield or the outfield. prefer to get four or five at-bats a game."
1-2-3 for Olson
Stopper Gregg Olson made his first preseason appearance and retired the side in order in the seventh inning. He struck out one.
"His slider is starting to come along," Oates said. "He got hurt with it in Toronto last year, when [Pat] Borders hit a home run off him, but his slider is going to be a big pitch for him before it's over with."
The Orioles managed nine hits, but catcher Chris Hoiles turned in the only multi-hit performance. He singled to drive in the only Orioles run in the first inning and added a double in the sixth before giving way to backup Jeff Tackett.
Left-handed pitching prospect John O'Donoghue finally is over a long bout with the flu and was available to pitch. He could make his first exhibition appearance tomorrow against the Kansas City Royals at Baseball City.
Telford to throw BP
Right-hander Anthony Telford has been sidelined the past few days with back stiffness, but he'll throw some batting practice tomorrow in anticipation of his first exhibition appearance. He could make his 1993 preseason debut Tuesday or Wednesday if all goes well.