Flanagan's debut delayed until Tuesday Shoulder fine after long toss


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Left-hander Mike Flanagan's exhibition debut has been pushed back again. He was expected to pitch today against the Texas Rangers in Port Charlotte, Fla., but has been rescheduled for Tuesday night's game against the Chicago White Sox.

Flanagan has been held back by shoulder stiffness, but he said yesterday that the change in plans was not because of a physical setback. Orioles notebook

He played long toss for 20 minutes yesterday and decided to rest today and throw on the side one more time tomorrow before pitching in a competitive situation.

"I guess I want to make sure that it is totally behind me," he said. "I think it is, but I just want to make sure."

He knows that he can't wait forever. The Orioles are auditioning a lot of candidates for the one spot open in the bullpen. Flanagan was a long shot to begin with, and his chances figure to diminish with each day that he is unable to pitch.

"I know we're dealing with a time limit," he said. "I don't know just what it is. I don't know how much patience they are going to have. I know that I need to pitch."

There might be a difficult decision ahead if his shoulder does not feel good tomorrow. There might come a point where Flanagan determines that he has nothing to lose by trying to pitch through the pain.

"I have a feeling we are getting close to that point, but I don't really know when that is," he said. "If I am being looked at as a shorter guy, you don't need that many appearances.

We've got what, 24 days left. Pitching every three days, I can still get in eight games. That would be plenty."

The other alternative is to take it very conservatively and leave open the option of trying to catch on with another club if he doesn't make the Orioles' Opening Day roster. He has not yet said that it is the Orioles or retirement, but that appears to be a likely scenario.

"I can't honestly say I've made that decision," he said. "I guess I'm a hopeless optimist. I still believe that I can help this team."

The delay developed yesterday when Flanagan decided to extend his workout rather than play 10 minutes of long toss and take the mound today. He threw for 20 minutes instead to test this shoulder.

"Once I loosened up, I felt fine," he said. "You can't throw the ball 120 feet for 20 minutes if your shoulder hurts."

Ripken in groove

Cal Ripken continued his torrid pace with his second home run of the exhibition season in the Orioles' 6-1 win over the White Sox last night. Ripken has hit safely in six straight games (8-for-14, .571). Four have been extra-base hits.

Outfielder Jack Voigt also homered for the Orioles (5-3), who won their third straight.

Arthur Rhodes struggled some in three innings, giving up three hits and walking three, but allowed only one run. Anthony Telford, Mike Oquist and Brad Pennington each had two scoreless innings.

Fernando in review

Left-hander Fernando Valenzuela said his arm felt very good the day after he made his first appearance of the exhibition season. He experienced only mild stiffness.

"I expected to be pretty sore," he said, "but it wasn't bad at all. It was just a little bit sore."

Valenzuela was not happy with the way he was spotting his fastball, but he got good reviews for a couple of screwballs that dropped off the table during his second inning of work.

Still, people were wondering how a guy can throw a 3-2 screwball with the bases loaded and no one out. Was Valenzuela as cool as he looked in that fifth-inning situation?

"I have to throw the screwball in that situation," he said. "That's my best pitch. You have to go with your best pitch. But in the National League, they were looking for it. I had to throw something else."

Mercedes shows improvement

Right fielder Luis Mercedes, who suffered a mild ankle sprain running the bases in Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia Phillies, was able to run on it yesterday.

"I didn't run like I'd run in a game," he said, "but I feel about 80 percent now."

Mercedes said he hopes to be in the lineup tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds, but it seems likely that manager Johnny Oates will give him a few more days to make sure that the soreness is gone.

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