BOSTON, AUG. 23 -- It makes Anthony Telford wince just to recite the story. He remembers vividly the moment two years ago when his right shoulder was nearly destroyed, at least for pitching purposes -- perhaps too clearly, in fact, for the vision is still painful.

Telford was running in the outfield in Kinston, N.C., where he had pitched the night before for the Baltimore Orioles' Class A affiliate, the Hagerstown Suns. He was testing a new pair of shoes when one of his spikes caught in the turf, sending him tumbling to the ground directly in front of the son of late Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams and an Orioles scout.

"I was embarrassed as hell," Telford recalled in the Fenway Park visitor's clubhouse this week. He broke his fall with his hands, but what he didn't realize was that he had suffered serious damage to his right shoulder.

He was unable to move his arm the next day, and in August he had surgery performed by Arthur Pappas -- oddly enough, the Boston Red Sox' team physician. It was eight months before he pitched at full strength again, and 15 months before he played in a game. His fast track to the major leagues was suddenly rerouted.

But a grueling rehabilitation and torturous stable of doubts later, Telford has reached his desired destination. The 24-year-old is in the Orioles' starting rotation, perhaps to stay. He's the center of attention, a position in which he seems most comfortable.

In fact, he even has a big league win under his belt -- and an eye-opening one at that, a seven-inning, one-hit mastery of the Oakland Athletics Sunday in Baltimore. It was quite a major league debut.

Telford will try to make it two straight Friday night, when he faces the Cleveland Indians at Memorial Stadium as the reeling Orioles begin a seven-game homestand.

He already has conquered perhaps the toughest situation a rookie pitcher can face, but he promises the jitters won't be gone for his second go-round.

"I'll still be nervous," he said. "Cleveland, Oakland, it doesn't really matter. It's still the major leagues. . . . {Monday} night, I was sitting there in Fenway for the first time, and you don't want to let it sink in. "If you let it sink in, then you might have to let it go and you're heartbroken."

Lest anyone get the impression Telford has become a source of ceaseless, wide-eyed gushing, let it be known he carries a reputation for swagger that is almost unmatched in the organization. "He can take it too far sometimes," one of his new teammates said. "But as long as he's backing it up, I guess it's okay."

Thus far the support has been indisputable. Telford struggled with his control against the A's -- the team he idolized while growing up in San Jose -- and threw just 44 strikes among his 92 pitches. But he displayed uncanny poise and a knack for getting his curveball over the plate when behind in the count. The only hit he surrendered was a fifth-inning single by Terry Steinbach on a humble flare over the infield.

Telford allowed four walks but didn't permit a runner beyond first base in a 3-2 victory. When Manager Frank Robinson removed him -- between innings because, as Robinson said, "I'd have been booed if I had gone to the mound to do it" -- it was partly because he believed Telford was tiring and partly because Telford was nearing the pitch limit that has been set for him because he is considered still to be in rehabilitation.

He lifts weights to strengthen the shoulder and had a "loose pitch limit" imposed on him at Class A Frederick and AA Hagerstown. The ceiling supposedly is 80 to 100 pitches, although he once threw 119. So Robinson said he has concluded Telford isn't really on a pitch limit, but he'll guard against overwork nonetheless.

That's because Telford is a valued commodity to the Orioles. He has lost, by his estimate, 4 to 5 five mph on his fastball since the surgery. But he still can reach the upper 80s, and he never was an exclusively power pitcher anyway.

Baltimore officials foresee him as an integral part of a rotation next season that might not include anyone older than 26.

Robinson is his longtime booster. "I remember at the time {the injury occurred}, I said, 'Oh no, here's an outstanding prospect who would probably be here in two years, and now his arm's gone.' I think a lot of people in the organization were very down. . . . It's good to see he's been able to come back. What I've seen of him is very encouraging."

Telford will face the unenviable task Friday of attempting to reverse the Orioles' recent losing ways.

They've dropped six of their last eight and 11 of 16 games, including two of three to the Red Sox to fall to 58-64 and 7 1/2 games back in the American League East.

The Orioles dispute Boston Manager Joe Morgan's postgame assessment Wednesday that they're "unofficially" out of the race, but they know time is beginning to run short.

"We have to make a move," Robinson said. "We have to get it done. Now."

.......SINCE START OF 1990 SEASON.......

Date...Position, player, injury

4/1....RHP Mark Williamson, 21 days, pulled muscle

4/3....2B Tim Hulett, 21 days, broken hand

4/6....RHP Ben McDonald, 15 days, pulled muscle

5/7....DH Sam Horn, 15 days, sprained shoulder

5/18...OF Mike Devereaux, 15 days, pulled hamstring

6/6....OF Brady Anderson, 15 days, sprained ankle

6/22...OF Phil Bradley, 21 days, wrist surgery

6/26...LHP Joe Price, 15 days, strained back

7/31...RHP Bob Milacki, 15 days, strained shoulder

8/4....2B Bill Ripken, 15 days, foot stress fracture

8/17...1B Randy Milligan, 15 days, separated shoulder

8/18...RHP Dave Johnson, 15 days, strained back

.......Williamson, 15 days, broken finger