The Baltimore Orioles are in no hurry to rush Bill Ripken back from the disabled list for two reasons.
His health and Juan Bell.
"Billy is day to day, and it should be a couple more days," manager John Oates said yesterday. "He's swinging the bat a whole lot better and doing more.
"But it's better to take more time because his injury is in a hard place to treat. A real hard sneeze or a checked swing can bother those stomach muscles."
Ripken has strained muscles in the rib cage area.
Bell, his replacement at second base, was on an upturn with 11 hits in his past 34 at-bats (.324) after a 4-for-43 streak.
He hit his first home run and batted .286 on the last road trip.
"There has been a great improvement in his play," said Oates. "Senior [coach Cal Ripken Sr.] has been on him heavy, and he is less frequently in the wrong place."
Chito: best to come
Chito Martinez, who played with Mike Mussina most of the season with the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings, said Mussina "didn't even have his changeup" during a 1-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox in his major-league debut.
"He's going to be an awful good one because he can paint the black [corner] inside or outside and throw that changeup about 20 mph slower than the fastball."
To Martinez, the four-walk total by the rookie was an aberration. "He never walks that many," said Martinez. "I think he was a little jittery at first."
Three of the walks came in the first two innings.
All righties all right
Oates said he is not concerned about the Orioles' all-right-handed pitching rotation now that Jeff Ballard is in the minors.
"I don't care about that," said Oates. "There are more right-handed hitters than lefties, and I'd rather have my lefties in the bullpen. Ideally, three of them, but now we only have two."
The manager said "we have some good arms" in the rotation of Mussina, Bob Milacki, Ben McDonald, Dave Johnson and Roy Smith.
Update on the departed
After one week with the Red Wings, Jeff Robinson is faring better than the other two departed Orioles pitchers.
Robinson has appeared twice in relief and allowed three hits and one unearned run in seven innings.
Ballard was rocked for 10 hits and three runs in five innings of his first start, and Paul Kilgus has a 7.71 ERA after two outings.
Conversely, the three additions to the Orioles, Mussina, Jim Poole and Stacy Jones, have permitted nine hits and three runs in 17 2/3 innings of their first week.
Oates said Glenn Davis is "doing a lot of things better" but that there is "no news" about when he might be activated. . . . Beginning last night, the Orioles started a daily giveaway to celebrate their final 33 dates at Memorial Stadium. A corresponding number of items will be awarded to selected fans beginning with 33 beach and golf umbrellas last night. The promotion ends with grand prizes on the final weekend, Oct. 4-6. . . . Cal Ripken has only 10 errors in his past 319 games. During the same span, the other starting shortstops in the league have made as few as 20 (Greg Gagne) to as many as 47 (Luis Rivera). . . . Only Detroit (3) has been shut out fewer times in the American League than the Orioles (4). But the Orioles went scoreless in the final 16 innings of the road trip.