- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2000

FORT MYERS, Fla. Mike Trombley would have preferred a smoother homecoming.

Playing in the town he calls home and against the organization with which he spent the first 11 seasons of his professional career, the Baltimore Orioles reliever had his first shaky outing of spring training yesterday at Hammond Stadium.

Trombley entered the game against the Minnesota Twins in the ninth inning with the Orioles leading 9-6. Based on his earlier spring training performances he began the day with a 1.80 ERA the lead seemed safe.

But Trombley gave up a leadoff home run to Robin Jennings, followed by back-to-back singles that brought the winning run to the plate with no outs.

Suddenly Trombley, who was signed to help stabilize the Orioles' bullpen, was looking far too much like last year's relievers who blew 27 saves and lost 25 games.

But then Trombley knuckled down and showed why the Orioles wasted little time signing him to a three-year, $7.5 million contract when the free agent market opened in November. He struck out the next two batters, then got Corey Koskie to ground to second to end the game and give the Orioles a 9-7 win and improve to 7-5 for the spring.

For Trombley, it was an eventful finish to a day spent catching up with long-time acquaintances. Trombley was drafted by the Twins out of Duke in 1989 and spent all his major league career with them after breaking into the majors in 1992. Trombley and his wife, Barbara, make this Gulf Coast town their offseason home, and he made the drive across Alligator Alley on Monday night so he could spend more time with her and their two children.

"I've got a lot of friends in the other clubhouse and all over this stadium," said Trombley, who has spent the past several winters working out at Hammond Stadium. "I'd like to say it's not that big a deal, but I admit it's a little strange being here in an Orioles uniform. But once you get past all that, it's still spring training and you have to go out and do your job and get ready for the season."

And Trombley says he has no regrets.

"I signed with the Orioles because I believe they have a very good chance to make the playoffs, and so far nothing has happened to change my mind," he said.

A career setup man, Trombley inherited the Twins' closer role last season after Rick Aguilera was traded. But despite earning 24 saves, Trombley does not see himself as a challenger to Mike Timlin to be the Orioles' closer this season.

"My role is to be a setup man for Tim," he said. "I'll do whatever they ask me, but he had a great second half and I'm not here to take his job."

Notes The Orioles got a scare in the fifth inning when B.J. Surhoff was beaned by Twins reliever Mark Redman. The pitch caromed off Surhoff's batting helmet, but Surhoff dusted himself off and took his base… .

Two players facing long odds to make the Orioles had big games. First baseman Calvin Pickering went 1-for-4 with a home run and five RBI, while second baseman Jerry Hairston, who hadn't batted since March 7 because of a strained groin, went 3-for-4 with an RBI… .

Ace Mike Mussina continues to improve as the spring progresses. After a shaky first outing in which he yielded four earned runs over three innings, Mussina has pitched seven straight scoreless innings over his last two starts. Yesterday he dominated the Twins, giving up two hits in four innings… .

The Orioles sent catcher Jayson Werth and pitcher Matt Ryan to their minor league camp in Sarasota, Fla. The Orioles now have 44 players in camp, although pitchers Scott Erickson and Brian Falkenborg will begin the season on the disabled list.

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