The news is mixed for Frank Viola and Roger Clemens, two of baseball's best current-day pitchers as well as for Ken Howell, on whom Philadelphia is counting.

The news is good for that name out of the past - Jim Palmer.But it's not so good for the Chicago Cubs, whose star second baseman, Ryne Sandberg, broke off contract talks. Sandberg, who can become a free agent after the 1992 season, has set a Friday deadline for negotiations because he doesn't want distractions during the season.

Clemens reported no pain in his sometimes troubled right arm Tuesday after four straight days of throwing. Viola, meanwhile, said he would throw despite bone spurs in his left elbow and Howell did well for the Phillies.

Palmer, meanwhile, was getting ready for another opening day - on the mound rather than the broadcast booth.

Baltimore manager Frank Robinson said that the 45-year-old Palmer, attempting to become the first baseball Hall of Famer ever to resume an active career, may start the Orioles' first exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox on March 7. If it's not Palmer, it could be 39-year-old Flanagan, another member of the Orioles' early '80s staff attempting a comeback.

"I'm going to look at both him and Mike Flanagan as starters early," Robinson said. "It's a lot easier to back off than it is to step things up later in the spring."

The 30-year-old Viola, meanwhile, said he would continue to throw after tests revealed bone spurs in his left elbow. The 1988 Cy Young Award winner, who was 20-12 last season in his first full season with the New York Mets, threw on Tuesday and said his elbow felt better than last Friday, when he felt pain after his workout.

Clemens, who missed part of last September with arm problems said there was no pain whatsoever.

"I feel good, not as tired as I thought I might be after throwing four days in a row," said Clemens, who was rewarded for his 21-6 record and major-league leading 1.93 ERA last season with a $21.5 million, 4-year contract extension.

As for Viola, he said he would go on as long as he could unless the pain got too bad. Then, he said, he might undergo arthroscopic surgery.

"Basically, it's going to be my pain tolerance," Viola said. "I'm just going to go on as planned. I'm going to keep throwing. If I can't take the pain, maybe I'll have something done in June or July. If exercise works, I may be able to go the season. If there's no problem, I'm going to keep on going."

Howell, recovering from shoulder surgery, threw 50 pitches. "He threw the ball very well," pitching coach Johnny Podres said of Howell, who was 8-7 before his injury.

Howell hadn't been expected to throw off the mound until next week but Phillies trainer Jeff Cooper, overseeing the pitcher's rehabilitation, called him ready for action.

As for Sandberg, the Cubs are offering a three-year contract extension worth $12 million and have refused to renegotiate either of the last two years of his current contract, worth a total of $4.6 million.

"They're definitely set on me playing the next two years at the existing contract, and that seems to be the major hangup," Sandberg said.

In other spring training news on Tuesday:

- Milwaukee invited unsigned free agent Candy Maldonado to camp. Maldonado hit .273 with 22 homers and 95 RBIs for Cleveland last season.

- Kevin Mitchell of San Francisco was excused from batting practice because of soreness in his right wrist. And right-hander Don Robinson strained a muscle in his right shoulder lifting weights and will miss Wednesday's pitching workout.

- St. Louis reliever Todd Worrell, trying to make a comeback from elbow surgery in 1989, probably won't be ready for the start of the season. Manager Joe Torre said after a two-hour workout that he preferred not to rush his former bullpen ace.

- Cincinnati manager Lou Piniella wants left-hander Norm Charlton to move up from the bullpen this season to replace Danny Jackson in the starting rotation. Ted Power, a right-hander, may fill Charlton's spot in the bullpen as a setup man.

- San Diego is balking over right-hander Ed Whitson's request for a contract extension. Whitson has won more games than any Padres pitcher the past two seasons but turns 36 on May 19. Whitson is scheduled to receive $1.25 million this season. The Padres have a $1 million option for the 1992 season or a $250,000 buyout.

- Boston GM Lou Gorman said right-hander Eric Hetzel, who has divided the last two years between Boston and Pawtucket of the International League, had agreed to a one-year contract.