FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Pitcher Jim Dedrick had called other baseball executives in the past and hadn't gotten a response, and he didn't expect to hear back from Orioles general manager Pat Gillick in late January after leaving him a message.
Dedrick, who spent about two months with the Orioles last season but was taken off the club's big-league roster in November, found out Jan. 20 he wasn't being invited to the major-league camp. He talked to others in the organization without getting any satisfaction, so he called for Gillick. Just for the heck of it. If he didn't hear back -- and he figured he wouldn't -- at least Dedrick would know he had exhausted his options.
But Gillick did call back, leaving a message on Dedrick's answering machine an hour later. They exchanged several more messages, and a week later, assistant general manager Kevin Malone called Dedrick with the news that he was being invited to camp.
His first day in camp, Dedrick thanked Gillick for the chance. "That's all I wanted," said Dedrick, 27. "Considering the type of success he's had and being a big-time GM, one of the best known . . . for him to call me back and show he cared about me as much as he does about everybody else meant a lot to me.
"But, that's what I'd heard about him."
Happy wake-up call
Orioles pitching prospect Brian Sackinsky woke up from his elbow surgery last August and held up his right wrist, looking for a scar.
If there had been one, it would have meant that his surgeon had discovered a torn elbow ligament and had to reconstruct the joint, using a tendon from his right wrist. But there was no scar, and Sackinsky knew immediately the surgeon shaved a bone spur off his elbow, the best possible scenario.
Now Sackinsky, 24, is throwing well, the best he has felt "in four or five years. There's no pain or stiffness in the elbow after I throw."
It figured that Sackinsky would pitch in the majors sometime in 1995, after he went 11-7 for Double-A Bowie in 1994. But after starting the season for Triple-A Rochester, his elbow bothered him early in the season, inflammation in the joint caused by the spur. He went on the disabled list in June, in the hope rest would reduce the swelling.
But it wasn't to be. Sackinsky's season ended prematurely; he went 3-3 with a 4.60 ERA in 14 appearances (11 starts).
There were days, he says now, when he was frustrated he couldn't be part of the stream of young players, such as Curtis Goodwin and Gregg Zaun, being promoted by the Orioles. However, he came to realize it may have been better that he wasn't advanced, while he was still hurting.
It's probably better he had the surgery, so that whenever he does get his first shot, he can be in the best possible position to grasp the opportunity.
The first shot may come sometime this year. "So far," he said, "everything feels really good."
Orioles manager Davey Johnson hasn't officially announced Mike Mussina as the Opening Day starter, but he grinned and said, "Who else is it going to be? When we decide officially, we'll call all you [media] together and make a big production out of it."
Alan Mills and Arthur Rhodes threw again yesterday, and again looked as if they're making progress from off-season shoulder injuries. "Arthur is a little bit behind Millsy," Johnson said. "But not by much."
Johnson dodged the question of how bullpen candidates Keith Shepherd and Oscar Munoz have looked. "Probably the toughest decision will be [which] pitchers go north with the team," he said.
Around the horn
The left thumb of catcher Jimmy Foster was smashed by a foul tip off the bat of Jeffrey Hammonds, but he says he'll be ready for tomorrow's workout. . . . Trade banter between teams has picked up, Gillick said, and Malone called Kansas City again about the Royals' surplus of left-handed-hitting outfielders. The Orioles may have interest in top prospect Michael Tucker or veteran Tom Goodwin or Jon Nunnally, all of whom can play two or more outfield spots. The Orioles could dangle their surplus of young right-handed pitchers, such as Billy Percibal or Calvin Maduro. . . . Johnson isn't forcing any personal contact with the players. "One day in the outfield, Mike made a comment to me: 'How long are we going to shag fly balls?' " Johnson said, grinning. "So I cut it down from an hour and a half to about an hour, and now it's down to about 40 minutes. I haven't heard any thank-yous, but I haven't heard any more from Mike about it."