After nine seasons and 108 victories with the Baltimore Orioles, after fighting alcoholism and other internal struggles, Dennis Martinez no longer kids himself.
Barring a miracle, he's going to play someplace else this season.
When he stands in the middle of an empty clubhouse and talks about it, his voice is soft and steady. If there once was a day for tears or fear, this is not it. His contract is guaranteed; his job isn't.
"There are some other guys in the same boat," Martinez said. "It's a strange feeling."
This spring training, the Orioles have come to south Florida hoping their pitching staff will return to baseball's stratosphere. To help it along, they've spent hours on the field working on fundamentals, and off it, they're still thinking over what to do about their infield defense.
As Manager Earl Weaver said after a 9-3 loss to the Texas Rangers today: "We're going to look at every combination."
At the moment those plans don't include some veterans who've performed well for the Orioles in the past -- pitchers Martinez and Bill Swaggerty and third baseman Wayne Gross -- and for them, this camp has been weird.
"I'm used to coming to spring training knowing I'm competing for a job," Gross said. "I'm not competing for one this spring, and it has made it hard to feel like part of the team."
Of the three players, Martinez's departure would be the most painful for the Orioles. He signed with them in 1973, came to the big leagues in 1976 and went 81-55 his first six full seasons.
The years since haven't been as kind. He fought a much-publicized battle with alcoholism, and while his courage was winning many friends, his once-devastating slider disappeared.
He has gone only 26-36 the last three years, and despite winning 13 times last season, had a horrible 5.15 ERA. Martinez is no pessimist, only a realist who can read.
"I thought about it a lot this winter," he said, "and I've decided it might be a good thing. If I go someplace, I'd be getting a new start. I think there'd be a different perspective for me. It wouldn't just be, 'Dennis is here again.' It would be a team depending on me every fourth day."
Weaver won't say it, but he appears set on a five-man rotation of Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan, Storm Davis, Mike Boddicker and Ken Dixon. In the bullpen, he is all but set with Rich Bordi, Don Aase and Tippy Martinez, and left-hander Brad Havens holds a solid edge over right-hander Nate Snell for the final spot.
"I know the situation," Dennis Martinez said, "and I'm down here working to do everything right. I've been throwing my curve ball for strikes. I really believe I can throw it anytime I want, which would mean the hitters can't sit on my fast ball."
No matter. In two spring training appearances, he has an 0-2 record and 7.71 ERA (11 hits and six runs in seven innings). The clock is ticking.
General Manager Hank Peters said he's having no serious trade talks at the moment, although he may be in the market for a catcher before opening day. Martinez is in the final year of his contract, is due to make $500,000 in 1986 and is the most attractive player the Orioles could offer in trade.
Like Martinez, Swaggerty has had one good outing and one bad one, allowing the Rangers six hits and two runs in 3 2/3 innings this afternoon.
Swaggerty is 29, no longer a kid, and has only 80 big league innings under his belt. The Orioles thought he would be a star in 1983 when he came up and pitched six strong innings against Chicago to help the Orioles break a seven-game losing streak and start their final run toward the American League East championship.
He came back to the big leagues in 1984 when Jim Palmer was released, and amid that publicity, fell on his face -- a 5.21 ERA in 23 games.
"I know I'm here trying to impress other scouts," Swaggerty said. "It's not in the cards for me here, and I'd be excited about any chance I could get. I don't care if it's Atlanta, Houston or Pittsburgh. As long as it's the big leagues."
He and his wife Kathy are expecting their first child this summer, and Swaggerty said it's time he was to be earning a major league salary.
"I think I might have to start the season in Rochester [Baltimore's Class AAA club]," he said. "Right now, teams think they have better pitching than they really do. In mid-May, they'll be ready to deal, and Mr. Peters said he would if he could."
Gross met with Peters last week and was told the Orioles would trade him as soon as they could, but that his $450,000 salary could be a problem.
Even Gross admits the Orioles might not be able to deal him until they agree to pay half his salary, but the Orioles privately say there have been no calls regarding Gross.
"It's a real hard spring training," he said. "It'd be nice if I knew a club had some plans for me."
Weaver will give second baseman Alan Wiggins a day off Tuesday. With Wiggins having made three errors in eight games, Weaver will give Jackie Gutierrez a chance at second base . . . Doctors have cleared outfielder Mike Young (sore wrist) and first baseman Eddie Murray (sore ankle) for a complete return to action. Murray has been serving as a designated hitter . . .
Today against Texas, starter Dixon left after a third of an inning having allowed seven hits and six runs. "He had no pop on the ball," Weaver said. Swaggerty then followed with 3 2/3 innings and left after Odibe McDowell's line drive hit him on the shin. Snell, 33, lasted an inning before pulling a muscle in the left side of his rib cage. "I don't know about any setbacks like this," Snell said. "I'm too old for this. If I have any more setbacks, I'll be sitting home in South Carolina."
The Orioles have lost seven of their 10 exhibition games and have had more than seven hits only twice. Today's game was only the second in which they've been errorless . . . Center fielder Fred Lynn is seven for 13 in his last four games.