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Valenzuela set to make debut against Blue Jays SPRING TRAINING


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Left-hander Fernando Valenzuela is scheduled to make his first competitive appearance as an Oriole tonight when he takes the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays at Al Lang Stadium.

Valenzuela will be the second pitcher to throw for the Orioles, following right-hander Ben McDonald. He'll probably pitch two innings, but manager Johnny Oates said that the results will not bear heavily on the competition for the final spot in the starting rotation.

"I'm just going to let him go out and treat it like a first appearance," Oates said. "Let him get his feet on the ground and get comfortable. Tomorrow is his freebie. After that, we'll start looking for results."

It has been 11 days since Valenzuela arrived in camp. He has thrown on the side or thrown batting practice five times in preparation for his spring training debut.

"I threw [Tuesday] and felt pretty good," Valenzuela said. "I'm getting excited. It has been a long time."

Mussina 'average'

Mike Mussina's second start of the spring last night was similar ++ to his first. The right-hander allowed three hits and a run in three innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mussina, who called his performance "average," struck out four and hit a batter. In his first outing, against the St. Louis Cardinals, he also gave up three hits and one run, while working two innings.

"I had a bad first inning, but it wasn't bad after that," Mussina said.

Flanagan goes tomorrow

Left-hander Mike Flanagan is expected to make his first exhibition appearance tomorrow night against the Chicago White Sox in Sarasota. He needs to rebound from an early bout with shoulder soreness if he is to earn a place in the Orioles bullpen, but Oates said the setback has not hurt his chances.

"It's not going to be held against him," Oates said, "but he's still got to go out there and get people out.

"You never want to miss a couple days when you're competing for a job, but this isn't going to hurt him. But if it keeps up, of course it will hurt his chances."

Mercedes update

The second-day medical report on right fielder Luis Mercedes was positive. He experienced little swelling on the morning after he sprained his right ankle rounding first base during Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

"It looks good," trainer Jamie Reed said. "It's a little tender, but I'd say it looks like it's day-to-day."

That's good news for the Orioles, who are auditioning a number of candidates for a possible right-field platoon. Mercedes figures to be out at least four or five days just to be safe, but the injury should not affect his opportunity to earn a significant role this season.

"This just means it will give me a chance to get some other guys some innings," Oates said. "Maybe [Jeffrey] Hammonds can get in some of the innings he missed." Hammonds has been out of action the past few days with a slight hamstring strain, but is again available to play.

Oates also wants to get as much playing time as possible for outfielders Jack Voigt and Sherman Obando, as well as some more outfield orientation work for utility man Mark McLemore.

Ripken streak hits 4

Cal Ripken's RBI single in the third inning last night extended his spring training hitting streak to four games.

Ripken is the only Oriole to hit safely in each game he has played.

Obando stays hot

Obando, the outfielder obtained from the New York Yankees in the Rule V draft, continues to make an impression in an effort to win a spot on the Orioles' roster.

The big outfielder drove in the Orioles' first two runs with a bases-loaded double in the second inning last night. It was his third double of the spring.

Honors for scout

Leo Labossiere, who covers New England for the Orioles, has been named Scout of the Year by the Northeastern Collegiate Baseball League.

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