Relief pitcher Don Aase pulls on a tan polo shirt and begins. "Let's see," he said, "I was crushed in Baltimore, crushed in Chicago, crushed in . . ."

He is among the quietest of the Baltimore Orioles, and he recounts a nightmarish season with a calm laugh. A year ago, he had a new elbow, a new team and a new contract.

He was getting a second chance with a right elbow that had gone bad and with a team that needed him badly. He came to the Orioles at a time when they were trying to survive without Tippy Martinez, who had a sore shoulder, and despite Sammy Stewart, who was terrific one day and terrible the next.

When they most needed him, though, Aase was bombed by the Cleveland Indians, blitzed by the Chicago White Sox and benched by the Seattle Mariners. That benching was severe. He was brought in to protect a one-run lead, and two singles later, the Mariners had an 8-7 victory.

Manager Joe Altobelli, working on a short rope, anyway, had seen enough. He used Aase only once in the next 19 days, and when Altobelli was fired June 13, no player's failure was more obvious than Aase's -- one save and a 7.07 ERA.

"Horrible," Aase said. "I don't blame anybody. Maybe I was trying too hard."

Today, the Florida sun is hot and careers are being reborn. Aase is throwing 90 mph in the bullpen and breaking bats in batting practice. His curve ball is in the strike zone. His possibilities are endless.

The Orioles need him again. They need to know that his repaired elbow will be more resilient and his fastball more consistent. They need to know that the Don Aase who pitched for Earl Weaver after June 14 is the Don Aase they'll be getting for all of 1986.

If he is fine, the Orioles believe their bullpen will be fine. He may never be Goose Gossage, but he should be good enough to save 30 games and share the load with Rich Bordi and Martinez.

He hopes so. His career has been so jumbled, so much a start and restart deal that, finally, at age 31, he finds himself with a defined role, a healthy arm and a solid team.

He never thought he would get such a chance July 17, 1982, when he felt something pop in his elbow. Three months later, doctors took a tendon from his left wrist and transplanted it into his right elbow. He did not pick up a baseball for nine months and didn't pitch again until May 30, 1984.

"I feel I got a second chance," he said. "I don't think it's like starting over, because that would mean everything that happened in the past wouldn't have happened. I can't do that."

He says he believes Gene Mauch overused him during a stretch in 1982 with the California Angels, which he thinks led to his elbow problems.

He won't say Altobelli misused him last season, but he doesn't have to -- people in the Orioles' front office do it for him. Scouts told the Orioles Aase needed to pitch as frequently as his elbow would allow him, and Altobelli used him once in 19 days during an important stretch of the season.

In Altobelli's defense, Aase had not yet grown confident about his elbow, which he did in the second half of the season. He enters this one hoping to be used as often as his fastball will stay alive.

What Weaver saw after he replaced Altobelli is what the Orioles thought they were getting when they gave Aase a four-year, $2.4-million contract -- a 5-3 record, 12 saves and a 1.78 ERA in 34 appearances.

"I saw a guy who can get the job done," Weaver said. "He was throwing hard, and he was always around the strike zone. I don't know what problems he had before. I just hope he can come back more often."

Aase believes he can.

"I think there were things I could do before, but I took my time doing it," he said. "I had to be cautious because I didn't know how the elbow would react. Physically, I think I know what to do and when. I think I can go out and pitch an inning or two three days in a row. I don't see any problem with that.

"The injury didn't happen on one pitch, and it didn't get well in a hurry, either. I think my arm now feels the same as it did three or four years ago. We have to get through the soreness and stiffness of spring training to know for sure, but I've been going through the drills down here without thinking twice about it."

Last season, he pitched only twice on consecutive days in the first three months of the season. In early July, he worked three days in a row for the first time. He pitched two straight days on three other occasions during the second half.

If he will blame Mauch -- "Gene and I had a problem, but that was a long time ago," he said -- he will not directly blame Altobelli.

"I didn't do the job, which is the bottom line," he said. "However, I do think I pitch better when I pitch regularly."

Which is his goal for 1986. And the Orioles'.