When Scott McGregor finished his five innings this afternoon, he had done everything well. The Baltimore Orioles were on their way to a 5-4 exhibition victory over the Montreal Expos, and McGregor was going to get his first spring victory.
Right on schedule, he could have said.
McGregor had allowed two runs and seven hits, and of the seven hits, five came on ground balls. But when he finished the fifth, Orioles Manager Earl Weaver did not greet him with: "Good job."
Instead, Weaver shook his hand and said: "Give us a couple more innings." McGregor went back out and gave him five more batters, allowing three hits and two runs, and left with a line that doesn't look so good -- 5 1/3 innings, 10 hits and three earned runs.
"I could have taken him out after five, and he'd have looked like a million dollars," Weaver said. "I could have taken Mike Flanagan out after four the other night, and he'd have looked like a million dollars.
"But it wouldn't be worth a damn. I want to stretch 'em out. We want nine-inning pitchers. It's better to have them out there too long than too short this time of the year. When the season starts, it's better to have them out there too short than too long."
After only 80 complete games the last two years, and according to McGregor "going to the mound thinking of going seven innings," Weaver has the Orioles thinking nine innings in 1986 -- by opening day.
This is the way Weaver always has managed, but it was reinforced last season when the Orioles rolled up club records in homers (214) and runs (818) -- and finished fourth.
This camp, Weaver has emphasized pitching and fundamentals. "Have we worked on fundamentals?" reliever Tippy Martinez asked. "Are you kidding? We've done more than I can ever remember."
Now, Weaver is emphasizing complete games.
"I felt great the first four innings," McGregor said. "But the last inning, I lost some stamina. I feel bad about giving up the home run to Mitch Webster with a man on in the sixth . That kind of spoils the outing. I threw the pitch I wanted to. I'd been throwing him outside all day, and I thought he'd be looking there.
"The pitch was right there, and when I saw him hit it, I screamed, 'Noooo, you're not supposed to hit it there.' That was my ground ball-to-shortstop-for-a-double-play pitch."
Like teammate Mike Boddicker, McGregor is working on mental as much as physical conditioning. A year ago, he allowed 34 home runs, finished with career worsts in ERA (4.81) and losses (14) and heard more than a few people wonder if, at 32, he is past his prime.
Since he does not have a 92-mph fast ball, his margin of error is more fragile. Like Boddicker, he will win if his control is letter-perfect and if he changes speeds enough to keep hitters off-balance.
John Tudor, a similar pitcher, did the same thing for the St. Louis Cardinals last season, and won a Cy Young Award. McGregor did not.
So this spring, McGregor has begun to rebuild his confidence as well as his curve ball. He wants to get back to the days when Orioles pitchers swaggered to the mound and said: "Here it is, now hit it."
"Last year, everything got screwed up," he said. "We got hit a few times, and then we got defensive. We'd never been that way before. The last few years, we've also gotten away from throwing nine innings, and I know Earl wants to reestablish that. We used to think nine all the way. Then a couple years ago, we started thinking seven or eight. Last year, if we got through six, we thought it was great.
"The key is to remain confident, and I'm rolling along toward that right now."
First baseman Eddie Murray, shortstop Cal Ripken, catcher Rick Dempsey and the starting outfield of Mike Young, Fred Lynn and Lee Lacy didn't make the trip today. Murray, who has been bothered by a sore left ankle all spring, will have it X-rayed tomorrow. Young has had three X-rays on his sore wrist, and took batting practice Saturday. However, doctors will do a CAT scan on the wrist tomorrow to make sure there's no crack . . .
A day after he hit a three-run homer, Jim Dwyer had three hits. He scored the game-winning run on John Shelby's fly ball.