SARASOTA, Fla. -- Sid Fernandez stepped on a scale in the Orioles clubhouse yesterday. The moment of truth.
In February and March, word out of his native Hawaii was that the pounds were cascading off the left-hander, who weighed 262 when the players went on strike last year. About a week ago, Fernandez told Orioles strength and conditioning coach Tim Bishop over the phone that he weighed 226 pounds.
To his teammates, who had watched Fernandez quit jogging less than one lap around the field last year, that seemed fantastic. Incredible.
"If he weighs 225," teammate Ben McDonald joked to left-hander Brad Pennington, "I'm Hulk Hogan."
Fernandez walked into the clubhouse and everybody noticed immediately how much better he looked, his face tighter, his clothes much more loose. If his teammates were waiting to see it before they believed it, well, they could see it on the scale reading: 225 pounds.
"Ben is Hulk Hogan now," Pennington said. "That's awesome, isn't it? I'm very impressed. [Sid] looks like a totally different person."
Manager Phil Regan said: "I hardly recognized him."
To his teammates, his manner had changed as much as his body. Fernandez, said pitching coach Mike Flanagan, seemed much more comfortable with himself. "A lot more secure," Flanagan said, "and that makes my job a whole lot easier."
Fernandez put on the same uniform he wore last year, the same pants -- "Just more comfortable," he would say later -- but now they were much more baggy on him.
Fernandez threw for 10 minutes, then changed into his running shoes. Before the workout, he had expressed concern about attempting the run that had conquered him the year before, but Regan encouraged him to try, anyway. Just trying would mean something.
Fernandez jogged a mile and a quarter. Slowly, but he finished.
"He looks great, doesn't he?" Regan said, beaming.
When he met with the media, Fernandez talked about his weight loss easily, occasionally laughing about his former self.
Fernandez, 32, said that after last year, when he went 6-6 with a 5.15 ERA for the Orioles, he felt it was time to make a change. His knees were bothering him, and doctors repeatedly told Fernandez that he needed to reduce his weight to help his knees.
Ten days before the strike, he had met with Bishop and former Orioles manager Johnny Oates in Minnesota, and discussed ways that the weight could be taken off. "He was fed up with his performance," Bishop remembered yesterday. "He knew that he could and should be doing better."
After the strike began, Fernandez met with general manager Roland Hemond, who encouraged him to slim down. Shortly after Regan was hired as Orioles manager, he called Fernandez himself, reminding him how much better a pitcher he was when he was lighter, back when Fernandez pitched with the New York Mets.
Fernandez heard all of these voices, and he acted.
"I decided to do this for me," Fernandez said.
In November, he started working out an hour in the morning, and an hour later in the day, much of the time spent on a treadmill. He stopped eating red meat, opting for chicken or fish, and he starting drinking a weight-loss mix called Metrix.
"That Metrix really works," Fernandez said. "I'm not a spokesman for Metrix, but if anyone wants to try it, it worked for me and it worked for a lot of people."
Fernandez says it was as simple as it sounds. Eat less, work out more. "The hardest part," he said, "was just doing it."
He reached his target weight, which he wouldn't disclose, by January, and just kept on losing weight.
He says that he hasn't felt this good or this light in more than a decade.
"I feel a lot lighter," he said. "I have a lot more springiness in my legs. . . . I just wanted to lose it, and prove that I could lose it."
That he has. Bishop wouldn't give specific numbers, but he said that Fernandez's body fat percentage has been reduced dramatically. "He's real close to where he needs to be," Bishop said.
Fernandez would like to take off some more weight. "But not much," he said.
But he feels like he's ready, and that's something Regan was pleased to hear.
"It's like I've been saying -- he could really help this team right now in the shape that he's in," Regan said.
McDonald added: "All Sid's got to do is stay healthy. When he's healthy, he's as good as anybody -- his numbers prove that."
Two days into spring training and Fernandez already is putting up great numbers: 2-2-5.
BY THE NUMBERS
In Baseball Encyclopedia -- 220
1994 season-ending -- 262
Current -- 225
BY THE ORIOLES
Mike Mussina: "I had heard that he was pretty focused. Obviously, he was. Something like that doesn't just happen for no reason. He must've been working extremely hard, and obviously I think it's going to help."
Damon Buford: "The first time I saw him, I said, 'Who is this kid?' "
Mike Flanagan: "That takes a lot of work. That's not something you can accomplish overnight. He showed a lot of dedication, and he made a lot of adjustments [to his habits]."
Chris Hoiles: "He seems to have a lot more confidence in himself. His attitude seems really good."
Phil Regan: "I'm extremely proud of Sid Fernandez. To me, it sends a tremendous message to the rest of the ballclub. . . . He made a tremendous commitment to take that weight off."