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Well 'armed' Orioles rely on solid pitching (as usual) to grab first

By Larry EldridgeSports editor of The Christian Science Monitor / June 14, 1983



Every baseball fan knows that pitching is Baltimore's thing - and has been ever since the modern-era Orioles were born in 1954. The pennant-winning teams of the 1960s and early '70s certainly owed a great deal of their success to a deep and talented mound corps featuring such stalwarts as Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and Mike Cuellar. And although most of the names have changed since then, the team has invariably come up with top replacements like Cy Young Award winners Steve Stone and Mike Flanagan plus such other outstanding hurlers as Scott McGregor, Dennis Martinez, Tippy Martinez, etc.

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This year is no exception, either. Starting out, the Orioles looked solid as gold on the mound, with a nucleus of Flanagan, Palmer, Dennis Martinez, and McGregor, which had started 144 games a year ago and carried the club to within one game of the American League East title. But Palmer experienced arm and back problems and hasn't pitched since April 26; Flanagan went out with a knee injury three weeks ago and won't be back until mid-July at the earliest; and Martinez has struggled through a difficult spring with a 4-9 record and a 4.98 earned-run average.

Given all this, it would hardly be surprising to find the Orioles struggling too, but there they are in their accustomed spot battling for top honors. In fact they lead the division at the moment as they wind up a road trip with a key series against the defending champion Brewers in Milwaukee this week before heading to Baltimore for a nine-game home stand.

How are they doing it? Well, Flanagan got off to his best start ever with a 6-0 record before the injury, and McGregor has now assumed the role of the stopper while compiling an 8-3 mark so far. And once again the team has come up with a couple of fine-looking young hurlers to fill the gaps in 21-year-old Storm Davis and 25-year-old Mike Boddicker.

Davis, of course, was not a complete surprise. The 6 ft. 4 in., 207-pound right-hander spent most of last year with the Orioles and won eight games in a fine rookie campaign. He was the youngest player in the American League in 1982 , but pitched with the poise of a veteran - especially in the final weekend when he defeated Milwaukee in a big Friday night game to keep the O's alive.

Storm (the nickname was given to him by his mother after a character in a book) looks so much like the young Jim Palmer that first-time observers usually do quite a double-take when he approaches in his Baltimore uniform. He resembles the three-time Cy Young Award winner out on the mound, too, and admits that it isn't all coincidence. ''I watched Jim pitch when I was a kid,'' he says, ''and I copied a lot of his style and habits.''

He has a long way to go, of course, to match some of Palmer's records, but Jim, for one, has high hopes for the youngster.

''He has better control, a better curve, better command of his pitches, and more poise than I did at his age,'' says the veteran right-hander, who has just been reactivated but will probably work in relief for a while before moving back into a starting spot.

Certainly Davis had it all the other night in Boston as he shut out the Red Sox on three hits to notch his fourth victory of the year and solidify Baltimore's hold on first place.

Boddicker was a bit more of an unknown quantity after dividing 1982 between a starting role at Rochester and a few relief jobs over the last two months in Baltimore. He's done a fine job, though, since being pressed into service, with a 4-2 record and a 3.13 ERA.