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Lunch does wonders for Orioles



That's what came to mind the other day when a guy who owns a ballclub and one who manages it met for a simple little lunch: Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin coordinating plans for the final attack on the Fatherland and the political settlement of Europe following World War II.

"We just wanted to talk over some things," Orioles manager Phil Regan said of his bread-breaking with The Chairman, Peter Angelos. "We had a good exchange," quoth the owner.

A few hours later, the team won a game, then another. And a series, gasp! Subsequently, the O's split a four-game set with that front-running scoring machine from Boston. If it's clear to no one else, it is crystal clear here: Veal Chops, the specialty of Boccaccio's Restaurant, all around.

Prior to the Little Italy summit, recall what had been going on with the Russell Street Nine: More roster moves (26) than the number of days gone by in the month of June (23) heading into the weekend.

Andy Van Slyke and Matt Nokes were jettisoned amid complaints by the veterans that the situation here was "confused" and that dismissal was similar to being granted "parole." Van Slyke went on the disabled list, came off it, had an "important role" predicted for him, then was traded all within the time it takes to get a vendor's attention at the ballyard.

Fringe pitchers (and what other kind are there in the Orioles bullpen?) were dispatched to Triple-A Rochester, and hardly had time to unload their shaving kits when they were summoned back to "The Show."

Suddenly, the disabled list seemed a more desirable place to be, especially if you were a starting pitcher, than checking into your favorite vacation spot.

Meanwhile, losses piled up, seven in a row at one point, the ace of the pitching staff was getting shelled, young men were requesting trades and being accommodated, players recoiled in shock when the manager described team efforts as "pathetic," and things weren't running very smoothly off the field either.

After years of a nomadic spring existence in Florida, the Birds are once again thinking about settling down in one spot, the varsity training only 200 miles away from the junior varsity and freshman squads.

And, oh yes, remember the "No Scalping Zone?" Already it's a bummer, the designated free-exchange zone being set approximately two ZIP codes away from where it belongs. When things go bad . . .

But, as The Chairman exclaimed between the soup and the salad of his meeting with Phlegmatic Phil, "Baseball is an unpredictable game. You think you have all the answers and the way ahead looks promising and suddenly there's a change and you have nothing but problems."

No sooner does Ben McDonald win in his arbitration dispute with the club, suggesting his $4.5 million swag will allow him to relax and pitch distraction-free, when he goes on the DL with a bum shoulder. Then, on the advice of his agent, obviously an aspiring physician, he decides he needs a second opinion on his condition from a doctor in Alabama.

This rescues Arthur Rhodes from Rochester and he flings eight innings of six-hit ball as the team was smashing the Red Sox yesterday, 10-1.

Now, if they'll only stop all that signaling back and forth about what Rhodes should throw and just tell him, "Mix up the heater and curve any way you want, Arthur, just get these guys out," and he could be on his way.

As Brady Anderson said recently, "We've never really had it going this year," so don't sit and complain, do something about it. Remind outfielders that when the ball is hit their way and the sun's out, it's good to flip down the glasses immediately. After you're blinded doesn't help.

Then there are things like not botching a simple rundown play or walking the leadoff hitter in the ninth inning of a tie game. Things like when a guy faces just 10 hitters and you're short of starting pitching, send him back out there two days later; don't wait for his scheduled start five days later. Things like adopting pitcher Alan Mills' credo upon being exiled to the International League: "I don't make excuses."

On the road for the next week in Milwaukee and Toronto, the Orioles are still eight games under .500 (23-31) and back in the roster-changing business. Jeff Manto and Greg Harris, the pitcher who just showed up from Philadelphia in the Van Slyke trade, go on the DL with a hamstring pull and an elbow strain, respectively, to be replaced by Rochesterites John DeSilva, who gets the start against the Brewers tomorrow night, and infielder Jeff Huson.

That's 30 moves through the first 25 days of the month. Still, it could be worse. What if Fort OPACY started falling apart like SkyDome? Or The Chairman didn't say of the manager, "he's a first-rate baseball man doing a fine job."

On to Potsdam.

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