MINNEAPOLIS — Ripken's hot streak puts day-off criticism to rest
MINNEAPOLIS -- Funny, nobody seems to think that Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken needs a day off anymore.
It was at this time a year ago that everyone and his talk-show host was clamoring for Ripken to take himself out of the starting lineup for the good of the team.
There is no reason to think that Ripken is any better rested this year. He has started every game and put together the best start of his major-league career.
Last night, he had his second straight three-hit game and raised his batting average to .359, taking over the league batting lead from Texas Rangers outfielder Ruben Sierra (.356).
He also emerged from last night's game ranked high among the league leaders in home runs (12), RBI (38), multiple-hit games (23), hits (69), total bases (120), runs (32), extra-base hits (26) and slugging percentage (.625).
Ripken's contribution has, at times, been the only thing standing between the Orioles offense and complete futility, but his performance has been appreciated outside of Baltimore, also.
He is the second-leading vote-getter in the early balloting for the American League All-Star team (308,457), behind only Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. Ripken appears to be a lock to win the balloting for the starting shortstop position. He already leads second-place Walt Weiss by nearly 200,000 votes.
How hot is he? Ripken batted .338 in April, .349 in May and entered last night's game batting .462 in June. He hit .300 or better in just two of the 23 months from May 1987 to September/October 1990.
"I think the biggest difference is that he's using the whole field," manager John Oates said, "which is an indication that he's not trying to pull everything and do everything himself. He's hitting the ball hard to the right side."
Ripken said from the beginning that the presence of newcomers Glenn Davis and Dwight Evans would take some of the offensive load off his shoulders, but his production has been steady regardless of who has batted behind him in the lineup.
McDonald evaluation delayed
Pitcher Ben McDonald returned to Baltimore on Sunday tundergo a biomechanical examination, but the test has been moved back to Thursday.
It is intended to determine whether McDonald is doing anything mechanical to aggravate the sore flexor muscle that has forced him onto the disabled list.
There were reports that McDonald was suffering from bone chips in his elbow, but they apparently resulted from some misinformation given to McDonald before his Magnetic Resonance Imaging test was evaluated fully. Orioles officials say bone chips have been ruled out as a cause of the soreness.
Here comes the judge
Left-hander Mike Flanagan has convened a Kangaroo Court ithe Orioles clubhouse, which is a sure sign that the team has undergone a major mood swing over the past few weeks.
Court was called into session for the first time yesterday, though much of the time was spent laying out the ground rules. No doubt, there will be more news on the legal front later.
Bill Ripken's back
Bill Ripken was back in the starting lineup after making spectacular, diving catch in Monday's game, but he didn't last long.
Ripken had to leave the game with renewed back soreness in the fourth inning last night, two innings after delivering a two-run single.
He has been in and out of the lineup with back spasms during the past week. He missed two starts after making a tough play in Boston last weekend. There was room to wonder whether he would start last night after hitting the artificial turf hard Monday night, but he gave it a try and made an important contribution before heading for the training room.
Oates said the Orioles are making progress in the club's overall physical health.
"The first day I managed the club, there were 17 names on the treatment sheet," he said. "Today there were 11, including the five guys on the disabled list."
The Orioles committed just 1 error in the 10 games leading into last night and were tied with the California Angels for the fewest (27) in the AL. Since the start of the 1989 season, the Orioles have made 32 fewer errors than the next closest team (Twins). . . . The Orioles entered the game 11 games under .500 at the Metrodome (22-33).