While the Houston Astros thought J.R. Richard was in his best condition since his July 1980 stroke when he reported to 1983 camp, they yet doubted he could reattain major league level this year--even before he learned he must have surgery next week to correct an arterial blockage in his left leg. In this, General Manager Al Rosen and Manager Bob Lillis differ with Dr. William J. Fields, who will operate and says, "I look at this as just a detour in J.R.'s comeback. If he can get to the point that he was at the start of spring training, I think before the season is over, you will see J.R. back in the major leagues" . . .
Floyd Rayford homered off Cal Ripken Sr., coach doubling as mop-up pitcher, in yesterday's intrasquad game for a 6-4 win that got Elrod Hendricks' side even for a 2-1 loss inflicted by a Cal Ripken Jr. RBI single the day before. Now the Orioles get down to business today, exhibition opener versus the Yankees. Jim Palmer opens against onetime staffmate Doyle Alexander . . .
In Sarasota, White Sox relief candidate Al Hrabosky, clean-shaven, vows to play straight from here on, no more "Mad Hungarian" . . . In St. Petersburg, old/new Met Tom Seaver tossed two scoreless innings, helping coach Jim Frey's "Small Fries" beat coach Frank Howard's "Jumbo Franks" . . . In Bradenton, plump Pirate Dave Parker says he'll reduce to 235, but, heck, he's an inch taller (6-5) than when he weighed 225 as a 1973 rookie, and look, "Babe Ruth was a really heavy man."