Of all the lessons Mike Boddicker learned last season, he said the most important ones dealt with lines and angles, perseverance and the luck of the draw.
The draw still is unlucky. The Baltimore Orioles' exhibition season began this afternoon with a 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees, and Boddicker's new year started in the same manner that his old one finished.
"I can make 'em hit it," he said, "but I can't guide it and can't field it."
He then did something he seldom did in 1985. He smiled.
He had gone 44-20 in 24 months in the big leagues when he ran into a 6-16 slide last season. He hurt a knee. He had an elbow that hurt. He saw one of the game's best curve balls become one of its most hittable.
When the Orioles' bus pulled up outside Fort Lauderdale Stadium this morning, he had promised himself a fresh start.
The box score said Boddicker, who relieved Scott McGregor in the fourth inning, allowed the Yankees six hits and two earned runs in three innings. The manager said he did not. The pitcher said he did not.
But in a three-run Yankees fourth inning:
A Don Baylor pop fly dropped between shortstop Cal Ripken and left fielder Mike Young for a single.
Former Oriole Gary Roenicke sliced an inside pitch about 10 feet over first baseman Eddie Murray's glove for a single.
Second baseman Alan Wiggins, who had 14 errors in half a season in 1985, threw what should have been a double-play ball into the dugout.
"I'm standing out there thinking: 'Hmm, haven't I seen this before?' " Boddicker said. "I know everything is going to equal out, but I'm ready for it to start. Bloop, bloop, error. I told Roenicke I was going to jam him the first time up. I did and he was waiting for it. It's a beautiful game, isn't it?"
Against the Orioles, who went 1-12 against New York last season, new Yankees Manager Lou Piniella didn't use his top three offensive stars -- Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield -- and his lineup included Jay Buhner and Darren Reed. His second pitcher was rookie Bob Tewksbury, fighting for the ninth pitching job.
Meanwhile, Orioles Manager Earl Weaver played his regulars (except for center fielder Fred Lynn) for six innings and said he might do so again today.
No matter. Yankees starter Ron Guidry allowed a single in three innings, and Tewksbury gave up a Ripken homer in his three. Bob Shirley and Al Holland then combined for three hitless innings, leaving the Orioles with three hits for the day.
The games are important to Weaver only because the Orioles' pitchers are pitching in them. The team's offseason strategy was counting on two or three of these same pitchers coming back to have good years, and each spring game will provide a clue.
"I've just got to work on my control," Boddicker said. Last season, he allowed 3.94 walks per nine innings, the ninth-worst figure in the American League. "Sure, you get tentative and start to nibble when you get hit a couple of times, but that's why we're here."
Likewise, Orioles starter McGregor, who allowed a run and three singles in three innings, is here to find out if he can put a little more on his fast ball and take a little off his change-up. A year ago, the pitches looked so similar that people keeping the Orioles' pitching charts couldn't tell the difference.
Neither could the batters, who slapped McGregor around for 34 homers and had him out of games by the fourth inning eight times.
"I was popping the ball pretty good," he said. "The thing down here is to fine-tune yourself for the regular season, which means getting people out and getting sharp. I made some good pitches, and I felt confident. But I did that last spring."
"Well, men, that's what spring training is for," Weaver said. "The pitchers looked good, but we gave them five outs in the inning. When you do that, it's tough not to give up any runs.
"We're not ready for the season. The pitchers are not ready. The hitters are not ready. But for the first time out, the pitchers looked pretty good."