ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A week ago, Orioles pitching coach Mike Flanagan hung a chart on the wall of the coaches' office in the Huggins-Stengel Complex. Down the left side, he wrote in the names of his striking pitchers. Fernandez. McDonald. Mussina.
On the rest of the chart, he planned to write in, with a black felt marker, the day-by-day workout of each pitcher. "I was feeling optimistic," Flanagan said.
The chart, of course, is blank, other than those names.
A week remains before the Orioles' minor-leaguers break camp, and there is much that Phil Regan does not know about his team. He's not sure who will be the center fielder, or the closer. Whether they will be forced to forfeit the first weeks of their regular-season schedule because of the organization's refusal to participate in replacement games.
But Regan insists spring training -- hours and days used to impart his philosophy and learn his coaching staff -- has been productive. "We've learned a lot," Regan said. "This time has been invaluable to us."
Regan and his coaches have identified a handful of Triple-A players who could make the Orioles' roster whenever the strike is over, particularly if the rosters are expanded temporarily to between 28 and 32.
Those who have made an impression this spring:
* Infielder Jeff Huson, 29, a candidate to be a utility infielder. The pluses in keeping him are that he can play second, short and third, and he can steal a base. The minus is that if the Orioles keep Huson and Manny Alexander -- and they must keep Alexander, who is out of options -- they would have a bench with minimal power.
* Left-hander John Shea, whose delivery makes him tough on left-handers. Regan may use him to pitch almost exclusively against lefties, and in middle relief. He has gotten better as the spring has progressed.
* Right-hander Frank Seminara, who was one of the best pitchers in camp early. He's struggled some in recent weeks, but Regan says he would "still have interest in him as a middle reliever."
* Left-hander Shane Hale, the best pitcher in camp this spring. Because of his medical history -- Hale is coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery -- the Orioles will be inclined to let him start the year in the minors and bolster his confidence.
* Utility infielder Edgar Alfonzo, from Venezuela. He's a long shot, having batted only 11 times above Double-A, but Regan managed him in winter ball and likes him.
Regan said that if the strike is resolved, the players who interest him likely would be left in Triple-A to play every day, rather than be asked to return to training camp. They would join the team when the big-league Orioles were preparing to break camp.
"We're going to want to get those guys [big-leaguers] as many at-bats as we can," Regan said.
NOTES: Nothing official has been decided, but it's likely Regan and his coaching staff will be given about 10 days off before being dispersed to other duties around the organization. . . . There has been no recent communication between the Orioles and free-agent left-hander Ted Higuera. But as time passes, their interest in Higuera wanes. Higuera was impressive in a workout, indicated to the Orioles that he would return to practice with minor-leaguers, and then changed his mind, saying he would be uncomfortable working during a strike. Both general manager Roland Hemond and Regan reiterated in recent days that Higuera's absence only hurts him, because if the strike ended and if Higuera reported to camp, he wouldn't have many chances to pitch with the Orioles' regulars around. Higuera is scheduled to work out for the Padres today or tomorrow.