O's Ripken in pain, but still game Third baseman admits he's hurting, but sees no reason to end streak

Some DH work possible

'One of hardest things ever had to deal with'

September 18, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

The Streak won't stop here.

Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken says chronic pain ebbing through his lower back and left leg "may be one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with" and acknowledges his day-to-day role may change in the days after the club clinches the American League East. However, the Orioles' Iron Man added he sees no reason the injury should jeopardize his record consecutive game streak.

"To me, if there was an opportunity to get it 100 percent right in one day or two days, that would be the answer. But that's not the answer," Ripken said.

Ripken started his 2,467th consecutive game last night. Beforehand, he met for 11 minutes at his locker with manager Davey Johnson.

"He's no different from anybody else except he's doing something no one has ever done or will ever do again," Johnson said before meeting with Ripken. "To me, that's a power in itself. I'm not going to think about ending the streak before [the playoffs]. That power is going with us right on through."

Said Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos, reached while attending a major-league owners meeting in Atlanta: "I know he's totally committed to the Orioles' success in the postseason. I think if he felt that his participation as a player in these games would be detrimental, he would bench himself."

Johnson did not rule out Ripken serving as designated hitter or a part-time player once the team claims the division, although the lead over the New York Yankees dropped to just four games last night, the tightest it's been since it was 3 1/2 on Aug. 15. "As far as I'm concerned, once we clinch [the AL East] he doesn't have to play nine innings. It can be some sort of spring-training arrangement," he said.

"I'm open to discussion. He's open to discussion," said Ripken. "We'll sit down and talk about that. As of now, we're not there yet. We can't take for granted clinching the division. We've got to play to win and clinch the division. Once it's clinched, I'm sure we'll sit down. He'll give me his thoughts. We'll go from there."

Ripken described his injury as stemming from pressure on a nerve that extends from his back into his left leg. He is not being treated by team doctors. However, those familiar with the description believe he is suffering from a disc disorder.

Baltimore Ravens team physician Claude T. Moorman said radiating pain such as Ripken described can often be treated with anti-inflammatory pills, cortisone pills or cortisone shots. Ripken said yesterday he has not received any shots for the injury. In extreme cases, an epidural can be administered. "That can usually be expected to quiet it down within 48 hours," said Moorman, citing Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders as one who had received such an injection.

Though he aggravated the condition Sept. 9 during a rain-shortened game in Cleveland, Ripken said he feels the pain is "not even close" to what it was several weeks ago when he suffered spasms.

Johnson has tried to avoid discussion of Ripken's status because of the potential distraction it might create heading into the postseason.

"I'm not getting involved in talking about the streak," he said after meeting with Ripken at the player's locker. "I don't want there to be 500 people here. We need to get prepared for the playoffs. Any kind of speculation about that will bring 'em in from all over. I don't need that. We're not going to have that. And I'm not going to answer questions on a daily basis about it."

Added Johnson: "That puts too much emphasis on one area. I know it's Cal Ripken, but I'm going to try to downplay it."

Ripken objected to insinuations he is merely protecting his games-played streak. The greater issue or staying sharp for the playoffs is also involved, he maintained.

"I'm not thinking of the streak. Don't make that assumption. You want to prepare, you want to play, you want to get yourself right. You want to get your swing down, get to the point where you can contribute to winning," Ripken said. "If the alternative is to take a month off and that would help my back, if I had a month to give, then that's an alternative. If the alternative is to take one day, two days or three days off and it's not going to be any better, you run the risk of being a little rusty. You lose on both counts."

Angelos and Johnson are comfortable leaving the decision to Ripken.

"It has been left up to him," Angelos said. "I've said in the past and I've taken criticism for it that once Cal surpassed the record of the Japanese baseball player, there are no more worlds to conquer. But if he thinks there are, I don't object to that. One would hope he wouldn't do anything that might cause him long-term harm. But he's a very sensible and intelligent young man and he'll protect himself."

Ripken is admittedly slumping. He entered last night's game only 2-for-23 in his last six games and 10-for-66 in his last 18 games. His diminished range at third base is also an issue.

Ripken, however, maintains his slump is not linked to his back problem. Running and diving are something else.

"The biggest movements are the jarring movements, the running movements some of the pounding things," the third baseman said.

"Actually, swinging the bat, with your trunk going around, doesn't seem to affect me so much. But if you land hard or you do something jarring, you feel it."

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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