His innings numbered, now Flanagan's days are, too


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Left-hander Mike Flanagan still hopes to bounce back from a stiff shoulder to earn a place on the Orioles' roster, but it appears that time and circumstance have pushed him to the brink of retirement.

Manager Johnny Oates said yesterday that time was running short on Flanagan's bid to make the club as a non-roster player, but he would not rule out an early-season arrangement like the one that kept catcher Rick Dempsey with the club for much of the 1992 season.

"Everybody in the organization is pulling for Mike Flanagan," Oates said, "because of who he is and because he is a credit to the organization. But we open two weeks from tomorrow and he has only pitched one inning. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Flanagan was scratched from his scheduled appearance Saturday with continued shoulder stiffness and asked for a few more days to get healthy before returning to the mound. No one is putting any pressure on him, but the Orioles bullpen situation is such that he faces tremendous odds even if he gets healthy in a hurry.

"For him to have any chance to make the club, he has to pitch," Oates said. "But you can't pitch if you're not healthy. He's still stiff and there are a lot of guys doing very well right now."

The bullpen is close to being set. Right-handers Gregg Olson, Alan Mills and Todd Frohwirth never were in any danger, and left-handers Jim Poole and Brad Pennington have pitched very well so far this spring. Poole struck out two in a scoreless inning of work in yesterday's 2-0 loss to the New York Yankees.

There appear to be only two realistic alternatives for Flanagan -- announce his retirement or find a way to remain with the club while he works his way back into shape.

The Orioles allowed Dempsey to remain with the major-league team as an "instructor" until there came a need to put him on the roster. Presumably, the club could extend the same courtesy to Flanagan.

Flanagan, 42, met with general manager Roland Hemond for 30 minutes Saturday to discuss the situation, but came out of the meeting still intent on pitching this year. He has not said whether he will keep going if he does not make the club.

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