You'll have to pardon the Baltimore Orioles for being so delighted today.

After all, it's still April and here's pitcher Mike Boddicker beating the timid Texas Rangers, 7-1, before 16,752 this afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

Boddicker never had won an Orioles game in the month of April before today. Two seasons ago, he wasn't called up from Rochester until May and still won 16 games. Last year, he was 0-3 May 1, then fired up to become the league's only 20-game winner.

Imagine the possibilities if this guy starts winning games in April, too. "I didn't exactly master them," Boddicker said, on the one hand. On the other, more optimistic hand, he admitted, "This is better than being 0-3. This time last year, I stunk."

On a 40-degree day made more for brandy than baseball, Boddicker struggled more than his teammates.

The Orioles had a carefree ride after their six-run fourth inning built a 7-0 lead and scared off Texas starter Mike Mason. Newly acquired outfielder Fred Lynn had two singles, drove in two runs and scored another in the fourth inning alone.

The only frightening moment for the Orioles came in the third inning when shortstop Cal Ripken caught his spikes on the bag on an unsuccessful pickoff attempt by Boddicker at second base.

Ripken's left ankle was taped when the inning ended and he remained in the game, preserving his string of never having missed an inning since being moved from third base to shortstop in the 1982 season.

X-rays taken at Greater Baltimore Medical Center were negative, and Ripken was told to stay off the sprained ankle for 24 hours, at which time it will be reexamined.

Meanwhile, Boddicker turned crafty each time he was cornered by the Rangers. He threw a massive 103 pitches in six innings, walking four and retiring the leadoff hitter just one time before he bequeathed the final three innings to reliever Sammy Stewart, who didn't allow a hit.

The key here, however, is that Boddicker persevered. He threw breaking balls, then more breaking balls. This is the same guy who won his 20th game of last season while giving up 12 hits against Boston.

"He throws real slow," said Rangers shortstop Curtis Wilkerson, who went hitless today, "but he's real hard to hit."

"His motion is very deceptive and he varies speed well. I don't care whether he's throwing 60 to 80 miles per hour or if he's varying from 70 to 90 miles per hour," said Merv Rettenmund, a former Orioles outfielder who is the Rangers' batting coach. "Either way, he's throwing at (over) a 15 miles per hour difference, and that's tough to hit."

The chilly weather didn't help Boddicker get warmed up in his first start of the new season. "I never broke a sweat. I didn't feel cold, but I never felt like I was warmed up, either," said Boddicker, whose only blemish was a home run he yielded to Larry Parrish leading off the sixth.

The Orioles' breakaway fourth inning wasn't exactly poetic, just punishing. The glory of the fourth came from Lynn, who lined his two singles, and from catcher Rick Dempsey, who delivered a two-run single, the second of his three hits.

Afterward, Dempsey said with a laugh, "Heck, I can start working on May already. I've got three hits in April."

The Rangers offered the gruesome part of the Orioles' fourth -- two walks and one hit batter by Mason, and the second error of the game by third baseman Buddy Bell, a six-time Gold Glove winner.

If the District of Columbia wants to acquire a baseball franchise, it better not take back the Rangers. It's never been an organization of continuity.

Consider that the once-upon-a-time Senators have had 12 managers in 14 seasons. Current Manager Doug Rader holds seniority among Rangers managers and his tenure lasts exactly two years and two games.

Poor Buddy Bell. He is the foundation of this Rangers team, a legitimate star of the baseball '80s. But by the fifth inning today, Bell had not only committed two errors that directly caused three runs, but he also grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to kill a budding rally in the fourth.

Of course, he broke his bat on the play.

"I have never seen Buddy Bell make two errors in one game," teammate George Wright said.

Bell was more to the point: "Just an ugly day," he said.

Rookie Fritz Connally had a more pleasant day at third base. In his Orioles debut, Connally had a single and a walk in four at bats.

In his first at bat, Connally started walking toward first, after he figured a 3-0 pitch to be out of the strike zone. Umpire Dale Ford called a strike. The next pitch was far outside, but before trotting to first, Connally impishly looked at Ford.

Ford pointed toward first. Said Connally later, blushing, "You can't take anything for granted when you're a rookie."