They call him "Blade." He's got long, flowing, jet black hair. And you would never know by looking at former Orioles shortstop Mark Belanger that he knew Cal Ripken when Junior was just a pup.
Belanger chatted with the graying, balding Ripken yesterday in the Orioles' clubhouse. Ripken has credited Belanger with teaching him many of the fielding techniques that Ripken uses today.
"That's nice, I really appreciate that," said Belanger, an eight-time Gold Glove winner. "I'm just one of many, I'm sure. Obviously you have a person who can retain those kind of things and then go out and do it."
Belanger, who said he will return to Baltimore if Ripken reaches the record-breaking game, provided Ripken with a regular example of a tall (6-foot-1) shortstop who believed in positioning first and diving as a last resort.
"That's always been my philosophy," Belanger said. "I don't know if I ever dove for a ball. If I dove for the ball, it was a mistake."
Sept. 6 would make Belanger very proud. "I knew this guy when he was a little boy," Belanger said. "I consider him a friend and maybe something I said rubbed off on him."
Alan Mills, sent to the minors in June, underwent surgery yesterday to remove a bone spur in his pitching shoulder. The surgery, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., was successful, Orioles officials said.
Left-hander Arthur Rhodes will be visiting Andrews tomorrow.
Rhodes, who stretched out the tissue around his pitching shoulder last week, is not going under the knife. He's getting a second opinion. Orioles doctors told Rhodes he'd be out four to six weeks, which means the rest of the season.
Curtis Goodwin, who is on the disabled list since his finger was hit by a pitch Aug. 19, threw for the first time yesterday but has not begun swinging.
Goodwin, on the advice of team doctors, did not have the blister of the back of his finger drained or his hardened blood blister shaved down.
Manny Alexander, who strained a groin muscle in California last week, was back in the starting lineup.
Jeffrey Hammonds (strained trapezius muscle) shagged balls in the outfield yesterday. Leo Gomez (fractured right ankle) may be receiving a second opinion on possible surgery.
Henderson says he's in limbo
Rickey Henderson is unhappy again. The all-time stolen base leader told the Sacramento Bee yesterday that trade rumors have left him in limbo.
"If they don't want me, then just trade me," Henderson said. "Either they want me or they don't. Don't leave me out there tripping."
Henderson's comments did not please A's manager Tony La Russa.
"He says he's trying to establish that he's a special player," La Russa said yesterday. "Any problem he has he's supposed to come to me with, which makes me believe this isn't a problem."
Fehr stops by to chat
Belanger, who works for the Major League Baseball Players Association, was at last night's game with union chief Donald Fehr.
Fehr held separate players-only meetings with the teams before last night's game, addressing the current state of the labor negotiations.
Publicly, Fehr was pretty mum. But suffice to say he has not been negotiating with Bud Selig recently. The first step is for both sides to pledge to start next season on time.
"If we could get an agreement on that, that would be wonderful," Fehr said. "We're working hard on it."
Around the horn
The Orioles have sold 175 of the 260 on-field seats for Ripken's Sept. 6 game. The money from the $5,000 VIP seats will establish the Lou Gehrig/Cal Ripken Jr. Fund at Johns Hopkins University to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. . . . Frank Robinson turns 60 today. . . . Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes of Gaithersburg threw out the first ball last night. . . . Oakland's Craig Paquette extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games. . . . The Orioles' Kevin Bass has one RBI in 107 at-bats since July 6. . . . Ripken went 1-for-4 to continue a 4-for-20 slump.