- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Rick Helling has decided that the best way to become a member of the Baltimore Orioles' starting rotation is to pitch like, well, Rick Helling.
"The main thing is I haven't tried to do anything more than I'm capable of," he said. "I haven't all of a sudden tried to throw 95 mph or do things I know I can't do."
For one day, however, the right-hander did his best imitation of Randy Johnson.
Helling struck out six in five innings yesterday to lead the Orioles past the New York Mets 7-4. Using his new favorite pitch, the cut fastball, the nine-year veteran looked like a couple of his teammates with Arizona last season Johnson and Curt Schilling.
"I'm not a strikeout pitcher, but I'll get some on occasion," Helling said. "I'm not like Randy or Curt. I don't expect to punch out 10 a game like they do."
Helling doesn't care how he gets batters out, as long as he does it consistently. Despite allowing a solo homer to Mo Vaughn, he lowered his ERA to 3.57 and solidified his bid to make the club.
But Helling is taking nothing for granted in what has become an unusual spring training for him. Not only is he pitching for a new team, but he's also more concerned about his numbers than he has been in years.
That's because Helling is among three pitchers competing for the final two spots in the rotation, and his impressive past he's won 71 over the past five years won't be enough to get him the job.
"Every other spring I've gone in and tried to get ready for April1. If I had a 20.00 ERA, I didn't care," he said. "It hasn't changed the way I've gone about my business, but I care a little bit more this year."
His performance has been enhanced by the cut fastball, which he added to his repertoire during the 2001 season.
"I used to be basically fastball, breaking ball," he said. "On days when I didn't have my breaking ball it would be pretty tough to get by, but once I developed that cutter, well, let's just say it worked out pretty well today."
He's no Randy Johnson, but Helling is a consistent pitcher who can provide a team with innings, leadership and, most importantly, wins.
"Rick Helling's the only guy we've got in camp that's been in double figures in wins for the last five years," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "That speaks for itself."
Now all Helling has to do is convince Hargrove and Baltimore pitching coach Mark Wiley that he's got the potential to again earn at least 10 wins.
"Hopefully with Mark and Grover seeing me from the opposing dugout, they know what I can do over the course of a season," Helling said.
"Spring training is one thing, but what I've done over my career, those things are things I take as very important. My strengths are accountability and durability," he said. "I hope my track record speaks more than what I do this spring even though I've had a good spring."

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