NEW YORK -- Shortstop Cal Ripken has been reluctant to discuss his contract situation with the Baltimore media, but he told report ers in New York yesterday that he has not been able to keep it entirely out of mind.
He likened the attention paid to his pending free agency to the media scrutiny of his consecutive games streak.
"With me, personally constantly answering questions about the streak and the motivation for the streak became one of those outside variables," he said. "This year, the contract has become a big outside variable because everyone wants to talk about it. With me, I try to minimize all of that and concentrate on the daily activities. Some days, it's easier than other days."
Ripken has been struggling at the plate, raising concern that he is either pressing or hurting. He has 13 hits in his past 95 at-bats (.137) and is homerless in his past 29 games. His double last night was his second extra-base hit in 26 games; the other was a double, too.
Hoiles on hold
Catcher Chris Hoiles has had to back off on the rehabilitation of his fractured wrist. The most recent set of X-rays left some question about the way the fracture is healing, so he will not swing a bat again until further X-rays are taken later this week.
No one is saying that Hoiles has suffered any real setback, but the Orioles medical staff does not want to take any chances until there is a better read on the situation.
Hoiles has been making steady progress, and he has not reported any unusual pain or soreness since he began a progressive program that he hoped would pit him against live hitting this week. The X-rays raised suspicion that there had been a shift in the fracture, but the absence of pain made that possibility seem remote.
"He was upset that they told him to sit for a week," said manager Johnny Oates. "He'll have more X-rays on Thursday and then join us in Boston on Friday."
Davis ready to return to first
First baseman Glenn Davis, who has not appeared at first base since Opening Day, told Oates yesterday that he is ready to play in the field.
Davis started the first game of the season at first base, then went on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his rib cage. He has returned to the lineup on an everyday basis and has re-emerged as a dangerous hitter, but Oates doesn't seem to be in a hurry to move him back to first base.
"He could be in there in the near future," said Oates. "The agreement was that he'd tell me when he's ready and he has told me he is ready."
When Davis returns to the field, Oates will have an extra lineup option -- the ability to use Davis and left-handed DH Sam Horn in the same lineup -- but he is understandably reluctant to change anything now that Davis is swinging one of the hottest bats in the lineup.
"I want to make sure to keep his bat in the lineup," Oates said. "The way he's swinging the bat right now, I want to keep it that way for a while."
Pennington coming along
Minor-league pitcher Brad Pennington has made significant progress in a relatively short time. He seemed green in spring training but has moved up to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings and is making quite an impression.
"There are a lot of people in this organization who have watched him and said that his stock has gone up," Oates said. "He's coming along fast and may be able to help us sooner than we originally thought."
What does that mean? Probably that Pennington will be one of the club's September call-ups.