His teammates call him "Mustard," as in "Hot Dog," as in why be merely normal?

For instance, this morning at County Stadium. Most of the Baltimore Orioles won't arrive for another hour or so, but Lee Lacy already has dressed, is sipping a second cup of coffee and chattering 500 words per minute.

He walks over to Manager Earl Weaver's makeshift desk and picks up a sheet of statistics. One is what the Orioles have done against Milwaukee starter Danny Darwin.

Lacy points to his .250 average against Darwin and tells Weaver, "Skip, this doesn't tell you how well I hit him. I hit ropes line drives against him."

Weaver smiles. "Everything's a rope, right?" he says. "Listen, just hit .420 in September."

"Oh," Lacy says, "I'll hit that for the year if I get a break or two."

A day earlier, in the same clubhouse, he had replayed his three-home run day Sunday at Yankee Stadium and was almost yelling as he finished.

"And they kept running those kids out there, man," he said. "Who are those kids against a 13-year veteran? Huh? Who?"

There was more. "Did you see that first one?" he asked. "Pitched me outside thinking they'd keep me to a single to right. Boom, right down the line, into the seats off Ed Whitson ."

Then there was the second homer, this one off left-hander Bob Shirley. "Oh man," Lacy said, "they should have had people take cover in left field. It hit the foul pole. "

The last one, off rookie Doug Drabek. "Boom, to right-center," he said. "That was the prettiest one, wasn't it?"

In the hours after that game, he had tried hard to be humble. But 48 hours later, when few people are listening, who would care?

"Lee has fun," Weaver said. "I asked him once did he want the day off, and he said, 'Earl, I'm so hot. Earl, I'm so hot. I can play this game. I can play this game.' He's happy. He likes going out and playing the game."

Since he joined the Orioles a year ago, after signing a four-year, $2.2-million free-agent contract, not all his new teammates have known what to make of Lacy and his many words, as he will routinely spray line drives to the outfield, then come to the clubhouse and do a respectable Richard Pryor routine.

Yet one thing everyone knew was that Lacy brought the Orioles offense at a time when they were desperate for it. Last season, when he started slowly because of a thumb injury and played in pain all season, he went three straight games without a hit only once and had a career-high 20-game hitting streak.

This season has been more of the same. Despite a recent slump, he's hitting .295 and is on a 168-hit, 94-run pace.

He has hit .306 the past six years. He can hit. He will admit it.

"Basically, I'm a guy capable of hitting the ball hard five times a night," he said. "I'm a line-drive hitter, but last year, the fans in Baltimore didn't see the real me. He hit .293 despite two long slumps. Last year, my thumb hurt me so much, and I told everyone this year would just be a matter of getting healthy."

His eyes twinkled. "I do swing at some bad pitches, but if they don't get the pitch in the right spot, look out," he said.

As he spoke, shortstop Cal Ripken walked past and said, "That's right, Lee. That's right, Lee. That's right, Lee."

Ripken was joking, but the point was made: Lacy loves to talk.

"Hey, I like to enjoy myself," Lacy said. "These guys get on me all the time, but that's okay. You've gotta be able to do that over the course of a long season.

"And," he added, "they really like me."