He's young, brash and hitting .334.

Ask him about choking under pressure, and he'll act as if you've asked him to explain cryptography, about which he knows nothing.

He once played the role of opposing quarterback at Lincoln, Neb., for Oklahoma State. He has starred in small productions of "Camelot," "Man of La Mancha" and "Guys and Dolls."

He once scrimmaged against Dexter Manley and has stared at an Oklahoma defensive line that had Keith Gary, Reggie Kinlaw and Ricky Bryant, all bigger and faster than he. Around him, 76,000 Okies were screaming for his scalp.

"Now, that's pressure," Traber said.

So one week into his major league career, he is holding up. He has played nine games since replacing Baltimore Orioles first baseman Eddie Murray, hit .334 (11 for 32 with a .875 slugging average) and hit home runs five times, three times to the opposite field, including a grand slam in today's 11-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox. He has 13 RBI.

He has given a team starved for offense another bat, and after a week, is very close to winning a spot in the heart of a manager named Earl Weaver.

"You've gotta like him," Weaver said. "You saw the ball fly out of the park, didn't you?"

Traber thinks he saw it, too. He thinks all this is real. A native of Columbia, Md., he was the Orioles' 21st-round pick in 1982, and four years after Oklahoma State, he is one of the American League's hottest hitters.

His ascent has been fast. He hit .323 at rookie league Bluefield in 1982, .274 at Class A Hagerstown in 1983, .358 at Hagerstown and .351 at Class AA Charlotte in 1984 and .265 at Class AAA Rochester last summer.

He went to spring training with the idea of showing Weaver he could play, "and I think I did that. Then I went back to Rochester with the idea of putting some numbers on the board. My goal now is to stay here as long as I can."

He said his parents' home in Columbia has been a "madhouse" the last few days as high school friends and family phone or stop by with congratulations. He said he realizes there are special problems playing at home.

But, he added: "The game is 95 percent mental, anyway. If you think you can hit, you probably can. It's a strange game because, if you fail seven times out of 10, you're a success. Certainly, I've done more than I expected. I wanted to hit 15 homers this year." He has 17 of them -- 12 at Rochester, five at Baltimore.

"The thing I like is that we're winning. When I got here, we were 10 games out of first and now we're 4 1/2 out. I'm not saying it's because of me, but I'd like to think I did something."

A star quarterback at Columbia's Wilde Lake High, he was recruited by Pitt, Notre Dame, Purdue, Duke, Clemson and Oklahoma State.

He said choosing Oklahoma State was easy because Jimmy Johnson, the former Pitt defensive coordinator, had just gone there and started a new program. Besides, Purdue wanted to make him a defensive back, and Notre Dame was recruiting four other quarterbacks.

He started five games his sophomore season, passing for 260 yards in his debut against Washington. "I usually played against the teams we had to pass against," he said. "Teams like Oklahoma and Nebraska. When we'd played Kansas, Kansas State or Colorado, we'd throw the ball maybe 10 times, and I might not play at all."

He remembers being told that he only had to take part in spring football his freshman season, and he did that. "I'd go through practice, shower and run over in time to pinch hit," he said. "That was no fun."

But after his sophomore football season, he was told he had to take part in spring football again. He said no. He led OSU to the College World Series, but when he showed up for football the next fall, he was running fifth team.

"No thanks," he said.

He played one more season of baseball, went to the College World Series again and signed with the Orioles, a dream come true.

In 1984, he accompanied the Orioles on their tour of Japan, and at that time, their coaches wondered about a hitch in his swing, and whether it might keep him from playing in the big leagues.

When Weaver saw that hitch this spring, he said: "That's perfect. He's going to hit the ball all over the field, and with power."

And his eyes glittered. Traber had made an impression.

"No one has tried to change me," Traber said. "Terry Crowley, hitting coach talks to me about the mental part of it. He wants to take an approach into each at-bat, to think about what I'm trying to accomplish."

When Murray returns, he said, "I hope they keep me around. I'd like to have the chance to show I'm an adequate outfielder. If I get the chance, I think I can."