HAGERSTOWN -- If all the pieces fall into place, the right side of the Hagerstown Suns' infield will have a major-league look tonight.
The Orioles' Double A farm club is expected to have both Glenn Davis and Bill Ripken in the lineup tonight against the Canton-Akron Indians. And there is a distinct possibility they will play their normal positions, rather than filling the role of designated hitter.
Both filled the DH role last night, with Davis playing his second game for the Suns, and Ripken making his first rehabilitation
start down the road with the Single A Frederick Keys. Davis was 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI on a sacrifice fly in Hagerstown's 4-3 win over Canton. Ripken went 1-for-4, with two runs scored and an RBI as Frederick beat Peninsula, 12-5.
"I felt like I accomplished some things tonight," said Davis. "I was a little more relaxed."
He was also pleasantly surprised to see Joel Youngblood, the Orioles' minor-league hitting coach, on the scene. "I played against Joel [in the National League] and he's a good guy for me to have around.
"He's seen me play, so we can discuss some things," said Davis. "It's good to have somebody like that help me make the transition.
"Plus the Orioles have an 'eye' here to watch me [video man Pete Hock], so I can get a look at myself and see where I am. When you're at the plate, there are too many things to think about to really know exactly what you're doing. It's good to be able to take a look at yourself."
Davis, who said he still has no timetable for his return to the Orioles' lineup, said he might make his first appearance at first base tonight. "I'll talk to the manager [Jerry Narron] when I get here," said Davis, who has said he wants to perform in all phases of the game before returning to the big leagues.
Ripken will wait to see how his pulled rib cage muscle reacts today before deciding whether he's ready to play second base. "The game plan is if everything's OK tomorrow to go up there [Hagerstown] and play in the field," Ripken said last night. "If I come through that all right, then I'd say I'll be ready to return Wednesday."
As far as what happens after he returns to the roster, Ripken said he'd had no indication from manager John Oates about whether he'd replace Juan Bell at second base. "That's up to Johnny," said Ripken. "We haven't talked about it at all."
Like Davis, it was decided to rehab Ripken one phase at a time as a designated hitter, rather than risk aggravating his injury both at bat and in the field. "The idea is to test it [his rib cage area] by hitting first, then if everything's OK to move into the field," he said.
"That way, if something's wrong we'll know what caused it. If I was playing in the field and something bothered me the next day, we wouldn't know whether it was because of swinging or fielding."
Ripken admitted he was ill-prepared when he went on the disabled list July 15. "People who've had rib cage injuries told me they can be tricky," he said, "and now I know what they mean.
"It hasn't bothered me while working out -- but then I'd feel it the next day," said Ripken. "I wish I hadn't done anything for the first 15 days, then maybe I'd have been ready in another four or five days. Now it's been 29 days.
"It's been OK the last four days, so we decided to give it a test. If something happens at least I'm still in the same disabled period, and can wait a few days and try again. But if I came back [with the Orioles] and pulled it again, I'd have to go back on the disabled list for another 15 days."
Despite using a supposedly cautious approach, it didn't take long for Ripken's aggressive, and occasionally reckless, style of play to put his body to a severe test.
After getting a single in his second at-bat, Ripken eventually scored -- coming across home plate with a headfirst dive. It didn't seem like a cautious way to test his body, but instincts have a way of taking over in those situations.
While Ripken hopes to return to the Orioles' roster as early as tomorrow, Davis won't pinpoint a date for his return. "There's a feeling hitters have when they know they're there," he said. "I'll play here until I get to the point where I feel like I'm ready to go."
The next step for Davis is a return to the field. That could happen tonight, and if so, he could have a familiar face alongside him in the infield.