Cal Ripken said the back spasms that have required treatment during the past three days continue to improve, and he took batting practice yesterday for the first time since Monday.
"It was considerably better [Wednesday] than it was the day before, and since the nature of these little spasms seem to run the same course, today will be better than yesterday. And tomorrow we'll forget all about it. Maybe we'll forget all about it now," said Ripken, who started his 2,408th consecutive game last night.
Ripken, who began last night in a 4-for-24 slump, said his back has given him trouble every season since he began playing, sometimes as frequently as four or five times a year.
"Backs are a funny thing. They can be pretty debilitating in some regards, but I've had a history of [spasms], so I've dealt with it, got over the hump. I know it gets better," he said.
"The first time it happens, you might answer hurriedly that, yes, I might not be able to play. But once you've had it, there's really not a lot of thought given to that. It's manageable."
Ripken and trainer Richie Bancells have developed a system of treatments to ease the discomfort, which they adjust, and it gives Ripken "immediate relief," he said.
Laker likely to be sent down
While Chris Hoiles was in Bowie last night, catching Rocky Coppinger and further testing his right knee, Tim Laker sat in the Orioles' dugout. It has become a familiar vantage point.
Laker has two at-bats since making his last start in the second game of a July 4 doubleheader in Detroit. He's 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts since having his contract purchased from the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings on June 18. And he's running out of time.
Hoiles is expected to return today from a torn ligament, ready to catch Mike Mussina and offer relief for Lenny Webster, who is playing for the longest stretch of his career despite a sore Achilles' tendon and unrelenting heat.
If Hoiles proves he's capable of regular work behind the plate, Laker becomes the most vulnerable player on the roster.
It's not likely the club would carry three catchers.
"It depends how [Hoiles] comes through [last night]," said manager Davey Johnson. "I don't want to have any hint of a reoccurrence."
Said Laker: "I knew once [Hoiles] was doing well that my days were numbered. They probably want me to go down and get back on track, seeing as how I didn't come up here and set the place on fire. Maybe I pressed; maybe I tried too hard. Things didn't work out the way I had hoped they would, but by no means do I think I don't belong here.
"I just hope they still have some confidence in me. Right now, I'm not real sure. I didn't impress anybody up here, so I'm hoping they haven't given up on me. It's a good situation here, and it's a team I'd like to be part of."
Laker hadn't fully recovered from a strained hamstring, or played in about two weeks, when he left the minors, and the injury prevented him from crouching enough to give the pitchers a low target. He's also trying to build back the arm strength he had before undergoing three elbow operations in 1996, including tendon transplant surgery. One of his throws to second on an attempted steal bounced off the mound, the next hit well wide toward the shortstop side.
He no longer receives treatment on the hamstring. "The only way it really affected me before was running, but I didn't get on enough that it could bother me," said Laker, who was claimed on waivers March 25 after spending parts of three seasons with the Montreal Expos.
Johnson said he knew Laker wasn't healthy enough to contribute when he arrived.
"There was a discrepancy that I was a little disappointed about," he said. "I felt like I couldn't catch him without really hurting him. My job as a manager is to not expose a guy to further injury. Maybe the trainers down there felt like he was OK and they activated him, but he couldn't run and he couldn't squat. Maybe that was the best he could do for us."
Around the horn
Johnson said Eric Davis, who began 22 weeks of chemotherapy treatments in Los Angeles for colon cancer Wednesday, is able to bend forward without discomfort, but not twist from side to side. Davis had hoped to be able to swing a bat six weeks after his surgery. John Maroon, director of public relations, said he spoke to Davis by telephone during Wednesday night's game and the outfielder reported that he felt great, then asked whether the Orioles were winning. Outfielder Jerome Walton had surgery again this week, performed by Dr. Williams Clancy in Birmingham, Ala., to close the incision from an operation during the first week in June to remove calcium deposits near his groin. The area wasn't healing properly and had become infected. With Cecil Fielder expected to be out six to eight weeks with a fractured right thumb, the New York Yankees are very interested in signing Pete Incaviglia, whom the Orioles designated for assignment Monday. The Texas Rangers, one of Incaviglia's former teams, are mildly interested.
Pub Date: 7/18/97