- The Washington Times - Monday, April 5, 2004

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles spent six weeks rehearsing for opening night, then lifted the curtain on a new season with a flawless performance worthy of a standing ovation.

Their motivation now is to maintain that good feeling with an adequate encore.

After beating Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night, the Orioles today will seek to maintain their grasp on first place in the AL East by defeating another accomplished pitcher, Curt Schilling.

By trading for Schilling during the offseason, Boston seemingly enhanced its chances of winning the World Series for the first time since 1918. The Red Sox can only hope the right-hander, who began his career in Baltimore in 1988, has as much of an impact as the Orioles’ newcomers did Sunday in a 7-2 victory.

Free agent signees Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro and Javy Lopez combined to go 7-for-11 with a homer and four RBI. That proved to be more than enough offense for new ace Sidney Ponson, who worked out of one jam after another to win his first Opening Day start.

When B.J. Ryan got the final out, those remaining among the 47,683 at Camden Yards stood and applauded. For at least one night, the Orioles were alone in first place and rookie manager Lee Mazzilli made all the right moves.

Now comes the hard part.

Beyond Ponson, the starting rotation has a combined 30 big league starts and 10 wins — not exactly ideal numbers for a team striving to end a run of six straight losing seasons.

A year ago, Eric DuBose was pitching with Class AAA Ottawa. Now, the left-hander is the second man in the Orioles’ rotation and ready to match his 3-6 career record against Schilling and the Red Sox.

“You look back and you don’t even imagine being in this position,” DuBose said. “It’s an honor. It’s going to be a great challenge to get thrown right into the fire right off the bat. It’s going to be a lot of fun, though.”

DuBose is typical of these young, brash Orioles. Few expect them to do much this season, but they have no intention of waiting to be good.

An untested rotation? So what?

Martinez on the mound? Bring it on.

“I think what we did shows something about the character of this team,” Mazzilli said. “They are a confident team. They have a lot of inner confidence in themselves. They feel like they can go out there and win.”

That’s what DuBose will be thinking when he walks to the mound today.

“I have to go out there and get it going, get this thing started,” he said. “You don’t worry about how many innings you go, pitch counts or anything. Just go out there and try to win.”

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