As Bobby Grisch stepped from the visitors' dugout Friday night at Memorial Stadium, the Baltimore Orioles began their howl.

"Look at his number," they laughed pointing at the "4" on Grich's chest. "If we'd just stolen Earl's uniform and given it to him, he'd have stayed."

Out of the O's dugout popped little manager Earl Weaver - the other No. 4 - fighting a grin and trying to stay in gruff character as he sauntered up to his old favorite.

"Earl didn't even come out of the dugout for Reggie (Jackson)," squealed Al Bumbry, in agitator's heaven.

As the hugs, slaps, punches and handshakes rained down on him, Grich's face burst with an Angelic smile.

It was the happiest moment Grich has had this spring. Being an Angel is not all harps and victories. Not so far.

"We're still struggling to meld together," Grich said apologetically.

Nevertheless, the Angels are beginning to fear that even a great many pieces of silver are not enough to transform a team with a pig-iron base into a champion of pure gold.

This has been a strange, depressing, unsettling April for California, the team that tried to buy itself a fresh set of halos over the winter by spending $5 million for free agents.

The irony about these Angels who slumped into Baltimore dragging an 8-12 record behind them this weekend, is that Grich and his fellow millionaires, Don Baylor and Joe Rudi, are not to blame.

It would be much simpler if they were.

"If the free agents weren't hitting," said general manager Harry Dalton, "I guess we wouldn't be too worried. We know they'll produce. But it's not their fault."

In fact, Rudi already has tied a league record with 27 RBI in April. Baylor, with 15 extra-base hits, has only one complaint: "I have so many doubles I haven't had enough chances to steal second."

Grich, hitting his dependable .274 with power (four homers), speed (five steals) and walks (10 already), easily moved his Golden Glove from second to shortstop.

The Angel difficulties run far deeper than their free agents, or even their other three conspicuous stars - Frank Tanana (4-0), Nolan Ryan (2.41 ERA) and Bobby Bonds (.284)

All six are off to fast starts. If they weren't, the Angels really would be in Hades.

California's problem is that a baseball team has 25 players, not six. The other 19 guys - especially the pitchers - are the problem. A very large one.

"The first six men in our lineup are pretty mean," said Bonds, adding speedy leadoff man Jerry Remy (10 steals) and low-average sluggers Tony Solaita to the exclusive list of those who are not guilty. "No other top six in baseball would embarass us. I'll say that."

But the bottom third of the order - Bruce Bochte, Dave Chalk and Terry Humphrey - has hit just one homer in 200 at-bats.

The support behind star pitchers Tanana and Ryan is even more abysmal. "We've scored 114 runs," says Baylor, "but we've given up 103. We can't hold the other team. It's that simple."

"We have a 3-0, 4-1 lead almost every night," said manager Norm Sherry, so far an even-tempered type. "But it just disappears. We haven't had consistent pitching from the one person on our staff, not even Tanana."

The Angel pitchers are a shocking collection of established career losers like Gary Ross, Don Kirkwood and Dick Drago, plus such youngsters as Paul Hartzell, John Verhoeven and Sid Monge who have been thrown in over their heads despite unimpressive minor league records. Add to that list 40-year old Mike Cuellar whose current ERA is infinity), and habitually sore-armed Wayne Simpson, and you have a staff worthy of an expansion team.

In the 98 innings when Tanana and Ryan have not worked, the Angels have given up an astronomical 75 runs.

The bullpen, a notorious weak spot for two seasons, now is called "The Arson Squad."

The same four convicted pyromaniacs who masqueraded as California firemen last year are back at it again.

In a desperate move to find a short man whose two best pitches were not gas and kerosene, Sherry decided on Friday that relief might be spelled H-A-R-T-Z-E-L-L.

Removing Hartzell from the rotation, however, means that the Angels unquestioned starting ace, after Tanana and Ryan, is Ross, who was 8-16 last year and is 23-43 for his career.

The Angels know that throughout baseball the wise old heads are chuckling to themselves, saying, "We could have told you. In baseball money does not always buy happiness. Pitching does."

The Angel brass is doubly peeved at the team's sputtering start because they were banking on huge attendance gains this year to replenish the coffers of owner Gene Autrey.

Of all the teams in baseball, general manager Dalton felt the Angels were in the perfect position for wholesale speculating in the free agent market.

California attendance for the last nine years (averaging less than 950,000) has been an embarassment for a team operating just down the freeway from the Los Angeles Dodgers who routinely draw 2 1/2 to three times that many.

Clearly, the Angels felt, a pennant contending team could double last year's paltry 1 million attendance. What other team could reasonably hope for a jump of a million admissions in just one year? Why the Rudi-Grich-Baylor heist would be a dollar bonanza in the long run.

So far, however, it is the Dodgers once again who are grabbing the headlines while the Angels get the laughs. After 11 home dates, California is drawing at a modest 1.4 million pace, a rate that could go downhill if this store-bought team continues to give off a suspicious smell.