SARASOTA, Fla. -- For the first time in 11 years, Cal Ripken didn't show up at spring training with the pitchers and catchers. By his standards that made him a week late, but for a very practical reason.
The Orioles' All-Star shortstop reported as scheduled yesterday, delayed" because his wife, Kelly, has been ill.
But once on the grounds, nothing had changed. It was like Ripken never left. He admitted to "sometimes being embarrassed about how I feel about this game," but didn't try to hide his enthusiasm.
"Maybe you get philosophical when you turn 30," said Ripken, "but it's embarrassing that I'm as bouncy as a little kid about being back here. I was out there today and wondered what Dwight Evans [the Orioles' equally enthusiastic 39-year-old newcomer] thought seeing me jump around like that and see how happy I was about having a baseball glove on. People notice that I like to have a glove on [which is ironic, because it's most often overlooked, as last year's Gold Glove results testify]."
The boyish feeling, however, doesn't bother Ripken. "I'm tickled
to death about it," he said.
With questioning, Ripken touched on other subjects:
* Money -- On Glenn Davis' club-record $3.275 salary: "I disagree with the importance placed on money. I look at baseball as a profession with two parts. The first part is on the field, the second is off the field. You let your agent take care of the part that is off the field. When I'm on the field I don't see someone for what his salary is, only as another player. It [money] creates a ranking system that's unappropriate. I know Glenn a little bit and as far as I can tell, he feels the same way. He has a job to do."
* Offensive assistance -- "You can't help but be excited when you add hitters like Glenn Davis and Dwight Evans. When I first came up we had Eddie [Murray] and Singy [Ken Singleton] and && [Al] Bumbry. Then, all of a sudden I looked around and I was the only one with a track record -- and I thought I had to do everything."
* The streak -- "I know it's there and I have to talk about it, but the last impression I want people to have is that I'm obsessed by it. I hope the real reflection is how I approach the game -- I just come out to play and don't think about Lou Gehrig. Everyone wants another angle, but I'm tired of defending it."
* BIG MAC ATTACK STARTS EARLY: After manager Frank Robinson confirmed what everyone suspected, Ben McDonald reacted typically to the revelation that he will pitch Opening Day.
"It's always nice to know when you're going to pitch," said McDonald, who has more than a month to prepare for the Chicago White Sox April 8.
For the trivia buffs, McDonald will be the fifth youngest Orioles pitcher to start an Opening Day game.
Jerry Walker (1960), Milt Pappas (1961), Dennis Martinez (1978) and Storm Davis (1985) were all younger than McDonald (who will be 23 years, 4 months and 15 days on April 8).
* DELAYED START: Gregg Olson was the only pitcher in his group who didn't throw batting practice yesterday. It's part of a precautionary move by pitching coach Al Jackson.
"It's a long spring, we've got plenty of time to get him ready. He doesn't need that much work and we wore out a little bit at the end of last year," said Jackson, explaining the strategy. "I think last year's short training camp hurt him.
"I'm not ready yet," said Olson, who said last year's lockout was "not an excuse."
* BRADY BEST: Among those who had not yet competed, Brady Anderson won the 12-minute run yesterday, covering 2.11 miles. He also was best at the vertical leap, with 33 inches. Ripken was second in both categories.
* WORTHY'S WORTH: Third baseman Craig Worthington agreed a $207,500 contract, the same salary he made last year.
* DWIGHT'S DELAY: Evans was in uniform yesterday, but did not participate in workouts for the second straight day. The veteran outfielder reported improvement in his right knee, which had some fluid and swelling.
* SLIM SAM: Sam Horn was the biggest weight loser among the 27 players on the roster (active and disabled) last Aug. 31. Horn dropped 10 pounds and only four (unannounced) Orioles gained weight over the winter.