MIAMI, MARCH 1 -- Say this for Jim Traber: He could be here sulking, complaining or standing on Roland Hemond's desk begging for a trade, asking for his release or requesting one-way plane fare to Tokyo.

Lesser men have done such things and are doing them this spring in camps all over Florida and Arizona. Traber could be wearing the scowl that Lee Lacy brought to south Florida or the quiet desperation that appears to have overtaken Mike Young.

Why shouldn't he? The Baltimore Orioles have nine legitimate candidates for six or seven outfield jobs. Worse, two of the starting jobs appear to be decided.

Fred Lynn will move from center to right, and Ken Gerhart will take over in center, which leaves Traber, Young and four others competing for left field.

Even left may not be open.

Desperate for a leadoff hitter, the Orioles have made it no small secret they'd love for rookie Pete Stanicek to make a successful switch from second base to the outfield. If he does, the job is his, and players like Young and Traber will be scuffling over a few pinch-hit at-bats -- or getting tickets back to Class AAA Rochester.

Traber knows all of this. He knows that in his fourth spring training with the Orioles, the odds are very good that he'll have to spend a fourth season at Rochester, where "I've done all I can do. I don't have anything else to prove there."

Yet, knowing all of this, he has come to camp in about the same spirits as always. He's a chatterbox in the clubhouse, and like second baseman Bill Ripken, who last summer almost breathed life into a clubhouse as happy as a mortuary, he's respected for, if nothing else, enjoying the game.

Press him, though, and another side will come out. He's 26 now, past the time when a lot of players have made it. And where once eating chicken wings and drinking Genesee with the rest of the Rochester boys was a good life, times have changed.

He was married in August 1986, and last fall, his wife Joan gave birth to a son. They named him -- get this -- Trabes Alan Traber.


"Honest to God, it was Joan's idea," he said. "I know everyone thinks it's this egomaniac giving his kid his nickname, but it's not. She said everyone was going to call him 'Little Trabes' anyway, so why not name him that?"

Certainly, he has nothing left to prove at Rochester. In three years there, he has a .273 batting average, and in 1,084 at-bats -- the equivalent of two seasons in the big leagues -- he has 40 homers and 163 runs batted in. Not only that, he has proven he can play both first base and left field. Last summer, he played 81 games in the outfield, and his AAA manager, John Hart, said, "He has improved tremendously. There's no question he's good enough defensively to play the outfield in the majors.

"He's a good athlete and has always been able to make adjustments. He seems to have made this adjustment. Of course, it depends on what a team wants. If you're talking about playing the outfield for the St. Louis Cardinals, Jim couldn't do that. He can't cover that kind of ground, and speed is always going to be a problem. But he has good instincts and he gets rid of the ball. I think he can play."

Traber admits that last spring was his toughest of all. He was barely given a look before being shipped back to Rochester, this after hitting .255 with 13 homers and 44 RBI as Eddie Murray's replacement for a couple months the previous summer.

"I went down there and felt sorry for myself for two months," he said. "Then I started hitting the way I can and ending up having the kind of year I'm supposed to have {21 homers, 71 RBI}."

He even missed out on a September promotion to Baltimore when he broke the little finger on his left hand diving back to first on Aug. 27. But he has shown up this spring again, "just hoping for a chance. The Orioles had an off year last season, and there's probably some open spots. That's the attitude I'm down here with."

This winter, he returned to his home in Columbia, Md., and went on a diet and hired a conditioning coach. He trimmed 20 pounds off a chunky frame, mostly by replacing pie, french fries and hoagies with yogurt and broiled chicken.

He also ran and lifted weights and showed up in his best condition since the early '80s when he was Oklahoma State's starting quarterback.

Traber said he doesn't dwell on the past and doesn't spend time thinking about the remarkable stretch in 1986 when he fired into the big leagues with 10 homers and 32 RBI in his first 32 games.

"I don't know if it seems like a dream," he said. "I just wish I could get that chance again. I think I've proven I can play. At least, I've proven it to myself. Even if it's a pinch-hitting role, that would be fine. I've seen how that works out with guys like Larry Sheets and Jim Dwyer. You come up with a few hits, and the next thing you know, you're getting 250-300 at-bats.

"I've got a family now. I want to be in the big leagues, and I plan on making it. There's a lot of young guys with a chance to make this team. It's about time. Young guys can help, and besides, how much worse can we get?"

Orioles Notes:

Mike Boddicker will start Saturday's exhibition opener against the New York Yankees. He's scheduled to go three innings and will be followed by Oswald Peraza, Tom Niedenfuer and at least one more. The Yankees have announced they'll use John Candelaria, Lee Guetterman, Cecilio Guante, Tim Stoddard and Pete Filson . . . In the second game, the Orioles will use Mike Morgan, Jose Bautista and Doug Sisk . . .

Boddicker and John Habyan will start Wednesday's intrasquad game. Hart will manage one team and fellow coach Elrod Hendricks the other . . . Reliever Don Aase threw 10 minutes of batting practice today, and Manager Cal Ripken Sr. said a determination on when he can pitch in an exhibition game will be made sometime this weekend. Aase is recovering from shoulder surgery and also taking medication for a sore back.