"I think Earl (Weaver) is living in the past," said Jim Palmer.
He was talking about his own past. And Palmer's past means 3,536 innings (47th on the all-time list), 199 complete games (four in 1980, one so far in 1981), 242 victories (36th on the all-time list) and three Cy Young awards.
"He expects certain things out of me I can't do at present," Palmer said yesterday. "If he expects certain things and I can't fulfill them and he manages under those expectations, it seems kind of silly."
Tuesday night in Toronto, Palmer, 1-1 this season with a 3.44 ERA, pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs. The two last fingers on his pitching hand felt numb, which was, he said, "a little bit disconcerting and scary to a degree." Afterward, he suggested he had earned a place in the Oriole bullpen, which some found equally disconcerting.
For Palmer there were no morning-after regrets.
"I haven't had any second thoughts," Palmer said, on the telephone from Toronto. "If Earl wants me to start, I'll start. But it's not helping us at all, in my estimation. I've been pitching every sixth, seventh or eighth day. I don't know if that has something to do with it. The windchill factor in Toronto was 25 degrees (Tuesday night).But (winning pitcher) Dave Stieb didn't seem to be bothered by it."
The best thing, he said, might be to go the bullpen -- "Wait for the warm weather and get my arm better."
Weaver, who was admittedly grumpy and feeling a bit under the weather, said, "If he thinks it's the best thing, the only thing to do, we may have to do it. If four other guys are outpitching him, it's gonna happen anyway. If Palmer feels that four or five innings is all he can go, he's probably right. In essence what he's saying is that he's not as good a pitcher as he once was. He said it, nobody else did."
Weaver said that no decision would be made on Palmer's status until the team returned to Baltimore next week and he could talk with General Manager Hank Peters.
They have done many a pas de deux before, these two, Weaver and Palmer. But this is a new one. Palmer, who has made four relief outings in his last 407 appearances, has never asked to go to the bullpen before, according to team spokesman John Blake.
Palmer has four no-decisions and in three of them he gave up only one earned run. On May 3, he pitched a complete game against Toronto, giving up three runs on five hits and 103 pitches. Three days later, he gave up 10 hits and four runs while earning no decision against Minnesota. A reporter told him Tuesday night, "You should be 4-0."
Palmer disagreed. "I'm a realist. I'm not 4-0. I'm capable of doing certain things. Right now, it's four or five strong innings."
Palmer said the top of his right shoulder, which troubled him last season, has been bothering him again, particularly in the cold Tuesday night.
After he walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the fifth inning, he signaled for Weaver. "I called him out after four innings and he left me in long enough to give up four runs," Palmer said.
Weaver said, "These were his exact words. He called me out and said, 'My two fingers on my right hand are numb.' I said, 'What do you think it is?" He said, 'It could be the weather. Let's go.' My feeling was he was saying, 'Let's play ball.' I don't know if that's what he meant." w
Whether it is the weather, the unstable pitching rotation -- the things, Weaver says, no one can control -- or the net effect of 3,500 innings on a 35-year-old arm, Palmer isn't sure. But he is sure of one thing: He knows how he feels better than anyone else.
Later he said, "They don't believe I'm ever hurt. They never believed it when I was 19. Someone else has a sore arm, they have a sore arm. They resent it when I'm hurt, they always have. I've been hurt a lot but I've also done a lot more than other pitchers."
"We have a guy that should be starting," Palmer said, referring to Sammy Stewart. "But let's face it, five pitchers is too much for as many off days as we've had."
What, Palmer was asked, would be the perfect solution, if he had his druthers? "I'd be the manager," he said, laughing. "Earl could come out and use all his pitches and throw the unexpected and I could manage."
That solution has not occured to Weaver. "Are you gonna write it like he said it, funny?" Weaver asked. A pause. "Why are you trying to aggravate me?"