For the past few weeks, all anyone has wanted to talk to Jim Poole about was his role as a member of the executive board of the Major League Baseball Players Association and his thoughts on a possible strike.
In many ways, that was a good thing for Poole, since the union questions precluded any about his performance, which he regarded as subpar.
However, Poole got what he hoped was the start of a string of good efforts in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader with the Cleveland Indians, working a scoreless and hitless ninth inning in a 10-4 Orioles win.
"I could have done a lot better in terms of location, but hopefully it's a good first step, four months after the fact," said Poole.
Poole has had some rocky outings this year, and gave up two doubles in the sixth last week in Seattle to Eric Anthony and Ken Griffey, but he was perfect in 12 May appearances, not allowing any runs in 5 1/3 innings.
"It [the difficulties] started out as location. There were a couple of times where I thought I was getting out of it and then I fell right back in," said Poole, who is 1-0 with a 6.86 ERA.
But manager Johnny Oates was pleased enough with Poole's work Tuesday to call himself "excited."
Poole said the union activities played no part in whatever struggles he might have gone through.
"You don't think about baseball 100 percent of the time. That [union matters] is just one of the things I think about," said Poole.
Oates said third baseman Chris Sabo, who was out of last night's lineup for the third straigtht game, was "playable."
Sabo, who had back stiffness Sunday in Oakland, was said by Oates to be suffering from flu-like symptoms. Oates said Sabo's stiffness was no more in his shoulder than his back, but he was available to hit and play the field.
Famous visitors I
Former Redskins quarterback and current ESPN football analyst Joe Theismann and his son Pat visited the Orioles' clubhouse.
Famous visitors II
In 1976, singer/songwriter John Sommers hit the jackpot when his tune, "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," hit the top of the charts, as sung by John Denver.
Little did Sommers, who visited Camden Yards yesterday to help promote an Aug. 28 benefit concert at the Pier 6 Music Pavilion to combat cystic fibrosis, know that his song would live on as the seventh-inning stretch song in Baltimore.
"I've got to say that this is a total shock. It's been popular here, to say the least. It's kind of taken me by surprise," said Sommers.
Sommers said the song was introduced to the club by former shortstop Mark Belanger and his wife, Dee. The Belangers are friends of Sommers' and made the suggestion that the song be played.
"Thankfully, it's caught on. I guess everybody is a country boy at heart," said Sommers.
Pitching matchups for this weekend's series with the Toronto Blue Jays: Tomorrow -- Jamie Moyer (4-6, 4.84) vs. Al Leiter (5-5, 4.56). Saturday -- Undecided vs. Todd Stottlemyre (5-7, 4.14). Sunday -- Ben McDonald (12-6, 4.24) vs. Juan Guzman (10-10, 5.78).
Including today's, the Indians are scheduled for five doubleheaders before the end of the season, not counting the day-night affair the two teams played Tuesday.