ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It was a late start, but Mike Flanagan's first appearance of the spring last night at least produced a positive result.
The veteran left-hander pitched one scoreless inning in the Orioles' 5-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. A non-roster invitee to camp, Flanagan had to scratch from two previously scheduled games because of tenderness in his shoulder.
"My game plan was to throw strikes, get them to hit the ball on the ground and get ahead of the hitters," Flanagan said. "I think I accomplished that.
"I was throwing strikes, and usually if you're hurting, you're a little wild," Flanagan said . "I knew the first question would be, 'How is the arm?' It's fine. To sum it up, I'd say I was pleased. I only threw 11 pitches. Maybe the next time I'll build it up to about 20 and go on from there."
Bubble pitchers on mound
All of the pitchers used by the Orioles last night were ones on the proverbial "bubble," ones on whom manager Johnny Oates has to make a decision.
Anthony Telford went the first three innings, followed by Flanagan, Mike Cook, John O'Donoghue, Steve Searcy and Brad Pennington. Telford gave up one run, Cook yielded two in the two innings he worked, and O'Donoghue gave up a two-run double to Drew Denson after an error by Steve Scarsone at third base.
Last night's loss broke the Orioles' five-game winning streak and was their first in five games against American League opponents. They had given up only two earned runs in the previous four games against AL teams.
Valenzuela 'less sore'
Left-hander Fernando Valenzuela bounced back well from his second exhibition appearance and remains optimistic about earning a place on the pitching staff.
"The first time, I was a little sore," he said. "This time, I was less sore. That gives me a good idea that my arm is in shape."
Valenzuela pitched three scoreless innings against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers on Monday. He has not given up a run in five innings of Grapefruit League competition. His solid performance has given his candidacy for the final spot in the Orioles' rotation added credibility, but it also has complicated the pitching situation.
Right-hander Mark Williamson also has been very impressive, throwing nine scoreless innings in his first three appearances. If both pitchers continue to do well, Oates and pitching coach Dick Bosman will have a very difficult decision to make in early April.
Valenzuela said yesterday that he would be willing to pitch in relief if that's what it would take to make the club, though it seems unlikely the Orioles would consider him as a reliever unless several other pitchers take themselves out of consideration.
If he won the spot-starter job, however, he probably would pitch out of the bullpen during the early weeks of the season, since Oates doesn't expect to need a fifth starter until May.
"Most of my career, I've been a starter," Valenzuela said, "but I don't think it would be a big deal. I'm looking for a chance to make the team. I would have to change everything. You have to do a different kind of work to be ready to pitch every day. Right now, I need a couple of days to bounce back. When I pitch more than five innings, I need three or four days to bounce back."
He doesn't really want to get ahead of himself. He came to camp as a non-roster player to compete for the spot-starter role. Nothing has changed.
"I don't want to start talking about something so far away," he said. "I like to take it day by day. I just want to pitch next time and go a little more."
Rhodes at minor-league camp
Left-hander Arthur Rhodes pitched four innings in a camp game at Twin Lakes Park yesterday so Telford could move into the starting rotation last night.
That shows how quickly Rhodes has established himself as a major-league starter. His place in the rotation is not in doubt, so he was able to go down to Sarasota and work in a less formal atmosphere.
Chicago closer Bobby Thigpen pitched two innings, allowing one run and two hits and one walk and no strikeouts. Thigpen set a major-league record in 1990 with 57 saves, but slumped to 30 in 1991 and 22 last season.
He's competing this spring with Roberto Hernandez to be Chicago's right-handed closer. "I look at it as it being my job to lose," Thigpen said.
Hitting his stride
After 11 exhibition games, Chito Martinez leads the Orioles with eight RBI -- the same number he had at the All-Star break last year.
When Ellis Burks stole second in the fourth inning of last night's game it was the first stolen base in five attempts against the Orioles this spring.
Leo Gomez is hitless in his past 13 at-bats. Mark McLemore is 6-for-13 with five walks in his past six games.