DETROIT -- Bruce Springsteen probably wouldn't mind the comparison.
After Mike Mussina had tied an Orioles club record with 14 strikeouts in yesterday's 3-2 win over the Detroit Tigers, Sparky Anderson elevated the young right-hander into exclusive company.
"There's no one else, he's the boss right now," the Tigers manager said when asked how Mussina compared with other pitchers in the American League. "[Roger] Clemens and [Jack] McDowell are up there -- but he [Mussina] is probably the best."
Alan Trammell, who has seen the best in the American League for the past 15 years, stopped short of matching Anderson's evaluation. But he had high praise for Mussina.
"He's not a Clemens," said Trammell, "but he's close to a [Bret] Saberhagen. He's got real good stuff.
"That's the first time I've faced him because I've been hurt the last couple of years when we've seen him. What I learned was that you have to lay off his high fastball -- but that's a lot harder to do than say.
"He's got good command of all his pitches -- he struck me out on a changeup -- and he throws hard enough," said Trammell. "He's going to be a real good pitcher."
Mussina's reaction to such flattery is typical of his approach to the game. He appreciates it, but he doesn't get overwhelmed.
"A lot of people have said and written some nice things about me," said Mussina.
"But no matter what is said or written, I still have to go out and prove it to myself. I appreciate it, but I still have to get people out."
He does that with the best. So far this year he has allowed an average of only eight runners per nine innings, an almost unheard-of ratio.
"You don't go out there trying to strike people out," he said. "If you do, you end up in a jam. I had a few [nine strikeouts] in my first start, but since then the most I've had is five -- and today I get 14.
"I consider myself a fly ball pitcher and that's what I was trying to be today, but they were swinging and missing those pitches," he said.
Oates thought the 141 pitches Mussina threw yesterday were his most, but the right-hander disagreed. "I had 144 in a six-hit shutout in this park last year," he said. "I remember those high numbers."
That being the case, the 14-strikeout total should stay fresh in his mind.