You could almost feel spring here this morning, although the temperature was barely breaking 20 and frigid gusts whipped down dim corridors under Memorial Stadium.
It's as the Orioles would have it: They brought Fred Lynn to town to introduce him, the ritual of meeting the press taking place in the visitors' clubhouse that he has occupied periodically the last 10 years. Yet now Lynn was out of place and very much an Oriole. For their fans, the thought was warming.
"My goal is to be on a world championship team," said Lynn, which brought to mind for many in attendance the delights of the Orioles' 1983 championship season that had receded during last year's down-the-drain fifth-place finish.
Everything about Lynn was sunny: his California tan, his wife DeeDee's California tan and his disposition, which was what you would expect of a man who recently signed a five-year contract for a reported $6.8 million.
"I don't set individual goals," he said. "I've had enough individual honors. I want some of that big green stuff."
What Lynn meant was a postseason payoff to go with the jackpot he already hit with the Orioles. He made clear that he has no intention of resting on his portfolio, but would continue to be the aggressive player he's been in six seasons with Boston and four with California. He hit .295 during that time and won four Gold Gloves.
"The fence is soft," he said. "You can run into it as much as you want."
In center field, Lynn has made a practice of not stopping for fences while pursuing fly balls. It's one reason he's been injured so often. One of his most resounding catches came in September 1982 when he cracked a rib while running into a wall in Detroit.
"I'd rather make a diving catch or throw somebody out than get a base hit or even hit a home run," said Lynn. "I pride myself on my defensive abilities."
In the ultimate, Lynn is able to deliver at the plate and survive would-be defensive heroics as in the 1975 Boston-Cincinnati World Series, which capped an unprecedented season in which he was named most valuable player and rookie of the year. In Game 6, he hit a three-run homer in the first inning, and later stunned himself running into a wall while attempting a catch, staying in the game.
Orioles Manager Joe Altobelli may have had that in mind today when he looked over at Lynn and said, "He's just what the doctor ordered."
Altobelli also recalled that when he managed Rochester in the International League in the early 1970s, he sent a runner from first to third and another from second to home in a game against Pawtucket. Both runners were thrown out by Lynn. "After that, I never ran on Fred Lynn," Altobelli said.
Altobelli was asked where Lynn would bat in the Orioles' order and he replied, jokingly, "It'll be somewhere below sixth."
Actually, Lynn is envisioned probably fifth, joining another high-salaried free agent, Lee Lacy, as a protective shell around the heart of the order, Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray. Last season, there weren't any other feared hitters on the Orioles.
"First to ninth, I've hit in every position," Lynn said. "I think of myself as a third or fifth hitter, more third because of my speed. But second or sixth, I don't think there's going to be any problem . . .
"I'm basically a line-drive hitter. I expect to get some extra-base hits. I want to be driving in runs, protecting Eddie and Cal, whatever he says," said Lynn, looking over at Altobelli.
The blazing Hot Stove League mood of the day could not be doused even by one pointed question: How does Lynn account for his .226 batting average last year against left-handed pitching?
"I've never had a problem hitting left-handers if I've been given the opportunity to hit them," he said.
He had only 133 at bats against left-handers last season as opposed to 385 at bats against right-handers. He hit .286 against right-handers, .271 overall.
But Lynn expects to play every day for the Orioles. "I'm in very good physical condition," he said.
Lynn also brought winter tidings of the Orioles' third free-agent acquisition, relief pitcher Don Aase, also an ex-Angel. Aase missed most of the last two seasons with an elbow injury but got into 23 games at the end of last year, compiling a 4-1 record and 1.62 ERA.
"Donnie is throwing as well as he ever has," said Lynn. "He's working on a change-up. He'll be a four-pitch pitcher coming out of the bullpen."
Postscript: About the time Lynn was getting acquainted, the Orioles' longtime center fielder, Al Bumbry, was working out under the stands, not about to give up but very definitely out in the cold.