The Baltimore Orioles took a World Series licking from the Pittsburgh Pirates last fall. Last week they got even.
Ten Oriole stalwarts shipped out to Hawaii to tape one of those "Superteams" competitions the networks use to separate commercials on slow weekends. They met 10 Pirate stalwarts and when the dust settled the Pirates had been whomped, five events to two.
As far as Baltimore is concerned, the stigma of defeat has been washed.
Today the Birds are rolling into Miami to begin the warm, easy ritual known as spring training. On Monday pitchers and catchers turn their attention to the season ahead, and on March 1 the rest of the 38 men on the spring roster arrive.
Their bosses say the Birds are starting the new season hale and hearty. The only one missing of last year's 102-game winners is relief-pitching ace Don Stanhouse, who went to the Dodgers via the free-agent route.
Stanhouse saved 21 games for the Orioles last year, pitching to a 7-3 record and a 2.85 earned-run average.His departure is not something any team can laugh off.
But it could be worse, Stanhouse had heavy competition as top reliever from 6-foot-7 Tim (Bigfoot) Stoddard. A bad arm kept Stoddard down most of last season. This winter he pitched in Puerto Rico and reports from Coach Frank Robinson are that Stoddard is solid and ready to become the club's fireman.
Pitching Coach Ray Miller sets the following criteria for a good reliever: "He has to be able to throw three or four days in a row, stay ahead of the hitters and throw with velocity. Timmy has everything you could want."
The gap Stanhouse left in the nine man pitching staff likely will be filled by one of two tall righthanders from Baltimore's farm system. Top applicant is Dave Ford, 6-5 for Rochester last yar and 2-1 in a short span with the home club. Right behind him is Joe Kerrigan, 10-6 at Rochester.
On paper the Orioles' greatest asset is their starting pitchers, with Cy Young Award winner Mike Flanagan (23-9) topping the list. Jim Palmer (10-6) is fit after bouts with several nagging ailments last year; Dennis Martinez (15-16 with 18 complete games) took a rest from winter ball this year and should avoid the mid season burnout that cut down his effectiveness last year; Scott Mc-Gregor (13-6) and Steve Stone (11-7) round out the starry fivesome.
There's gold behind even that. Veteran lefty reliever Tippy Martinez was 10-3 last year and Sammy Stewart emerged from the culture shock of his first year in the bigs with an 8-5 record and a 3.52 ERA.
The pitchers put together the best team ERA in the league, 3.28, which was almost a full run lower than the league average.
They might never have lost a game if they had some hitting behind them.
Not a single Oriole regular was hitting over .300 by season's end. Third baseman Doug DeCinces, troubled by a back injury, dipped to .230 and Lee May, who was supposed to hold down the slugger's spot as designated hitter, punched out a paltry .254 average with 19 homers and 69 runs batted in.
DeCinces is well again, but the Birds have no known scheme to deal with the DH dilemma. General Manager Hank Peters said the 37-year-old May is still expected to be the "primary" DH, though he may share time with left-handed hitters Pat Kelley and John Lowenstein.
Peters said left field, which has been a trouble spot for Baltimore ever since Frank Robinson retired, is the early province of Gary Roenicke, who shared time there last year with Kelly and Lowenstein.
"I believe (Manager) Earl (Weaver) is committed to going a long way with Roenicke this year, using him against both left-and right-handed pitchers," Peters said.
Peters said Weaver also intends to go a long way with Kiko Garcia, the lackadaisical shortstop who is heir apparaent to Mark Belganger, who can't hit the ball anymore.
That rounds out an all-California in field of DeCinces, Garcia, Rich Dauer and first baseman Eddie Murray, who snared team batting honors with Ken Singleton last year at .295.
In any case, the Orioles are not dealing with untested commodities. Peters put it this way: "Our confidence is not based on the hope that somebody who was hurt or had an off year last seasonwill come back.
"If Palmer can come back and win 20, great. If DeCinces can hit .280, we'd love to see it. But if they don't we can still count on the other guys to do what they did last year." Which was to compile the best record in baseball.
Miller, the pitching coach, isn't counting on anything.
"Me?" he said, "I just hope it doesn't snow in Chicago on opening day."