Eleven days before their scheduled arbitration hearing, the Baltimore Orioles and second baseman Bill Ripken agreed to terms of a one-year contract yesterday.
Ripken signed for $700,000, short of the $790,000 he had been seeking but above the team's arbitration filing of $585,000. In any case, the new contract calls for a healthy raise. He earned $215,000 last year.
"Bill made great strides offensively last year," Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said yesterday. "To his credit, he made some adjustments at the plate and they paid off for the ballclub and, at this time, for him."
None of the Orioles had a more surprising season than Ripken in 1990. After two years near the bottom of Orioles offensive statistics, he was the team's leading hitter, with a .291 average. That was a 52-point improvement (from .239 in 1989), second in the American League to the Detroit Tigers' Alan Trammell, whose average jumped 61.
Ripken's offense had many facets. He tied his brother, Cal, for the team lead in doubles with 28. He and the Oakland Athletics' Mike Gallego tied for the AL lead with 17 sacrifice bunts.
Ripken also did his usual competent job in the field. Defensively, the highlight of his season was a stretch of 53 consecutive errorless games between May 27 and Aug. 3.
The agreement leaves two Orioles players with arbitration rights still unsigned. Both are new to the team -- first baseman Glenn Davis (Thursday) and pitcher Jeff Robinson (hearing expected Feb. 20).
Hemond declined to comment on the prospect of an early settlement with either player, saying only, "We just don't comment on those things."
The Orioles haven't been to arbitration with one of their players since Hemond took over as general manager before the 1988 season. But he said he isn't averse to that possibility if it becomes necessary in either case.
"It's part of the structure and the procedure of the game," he said. "If you can settle, so much the better. But sometimes there isn't a meeting of the minds."