Ripken steps into different stance In 1-for-22 funk, he tries new approach to drive ball

Orioles Notebook

May 06, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

CLEVELAND -- A man of 1,000 stances, Cal Ripken has further modified his hitting approach to include an exaggerated step into the pitch. The adjustment is designed to improve his timing and thereby generate more power.

The adjustment helps Ripken keep his weight back longer. He had fallen into a rut of lurching forward, causing him to drag his hands and costing him drive.

Ripken, still third on the team in RBIs, is batting .254 with two home runs, five extra-base hits and 16 RBIs. His .331 slugging percentage is lowest among regulars.

With an 0-for-3 last night, he is in a 1-for-22 funk that has dropped his average from .302. Contact hasn't been as much a problem as driving the ball. The recent slide has been marked by pitchers repeatedly jamming him, resulting in a rash of ground balls.

"You have to go back before you come forward," said hitting coach Rick Down, speaking literally as well as figuratively. "There's only one hitter who I've ever seen who can get away with the other way, Paul Molitor. This takes some getting used to. But when it's there, everyone will see it."

Recasting Charlton

His bruises have healed from last week's beaning from a Frank Thomas line drive, but reliever Norm Charlton still is trying to heal the faulty mechanics that have followed him this season.

Manager Ray Miller and pitching coach Mike Flanagan met with Charlton on Monday to encourage him to alter his approach.

In 10 games, Charlton has surrendered 26 base runners in 10 2/3 innings, including nine walks and an opponents' average of .362. Miller believes Charlton needs to acknowledge his loss of velocity and compensate accordingly.

"He's one of the Nasty Boys. He's still got that mentality. It's like, 'Here it is, hit it if you can,' " Miller said. "He still throws hard, but he doesn't throw 96 or 97 like he did. I think his approach is ## well-known by the league. Part of being a professional and staying very good is making adjustments. Hopefully, that will work out."

Tuesday for Kamieniecki?

Bolstered by three strong innings in Monday's exhibition, Scott Kamieniecki is penciled in for leaving the disabled list Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins. It will be his first start since failing to clear the first inning in an April 24 loss against Oakland.

Miller was impressed enough by his exhibition outing that he declared Kamieniecki off a rigid pitch count. "The best thing about [Monday] was he worked off a lot of 0-2 counts," Miller said. "That's the biggest thing for him: Keeping him out of high pitch counts."

Calling Monday only "a first step," Kamieniecki has grown tired of insinuations that he lacks aggressiveness. "If I go 0-2 against somebody, I'm pitching aggressive. If I'm 2-0, all of a sudden I'm backing off or nibbling. I'm pitching the same way. It's simply a matter of whether I make the pitch or not."

Checking on Coppinger

Farm director Syd Thrift will head to the minor-league camp in Sarasota, Fla., later this week to check on Rocky Coppinger, who has pitched twice in extended spring training games, totaling three scoreless innings. A strained shoulder had prevented Coppinger from throwing since being reassigned in February.

"He was throwing 85, 86 mph. That's pretty good the second time up," Thrift said at the Orioles' exhibition game in Bowie Monday. "I don't want to bring him abruptly from there to Triple-A. But I want to step him up to tougher competition, maybe Frederick, maybe Bowie.

"I don't want him overthrowing trying to do too much. That's a problem we've had with pitchers who have been disabled."

Around the horn

Yesterday's reunion with former Oriole Geronimo Berroa was muted by Berroa landing on the disabled list because of a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. Berroa hobbled around the Indians' clubhouse on crutches. Berroa had served primarily as designated hitter before suffering the injury running to first base on Saturday. Berroa was hitting only .204 with two RBIs in 49 at-bats. The Indians also put left-handed reliever Alvin Morman on the 15-day disabled list (pulled groin), recalling pitcher Jason Rakers from Double-A Akron to replace him. Orioles catcher Lenny Webster, who had a go-ahead pinch-hit single in the ninth, did not start for a third consecutive day to rest his weary right elbow. He will start tonight with Scott Erickson pitching. Miller started Joe Carter over Eric Davis in right field. Carter entered with 3-for-4 lifetime success against Indians starter Jaret Wright and went 2-for-4 last night, but struck out twice. Appearing in his 2,572nd game, Ripken tied Ozzie Smith for 33rd on the all-time games played list. He needs only two at-bats to tie Eddie Collins for 21st all-time (9,949).

Staying power

Last night, Jimmy Key gave the Orioles their fifth straight start of more than six innings, after only one start of that duration in the four preceding games, all of them losses. A look at the recent streak:

D .. .. ..Pitcher .. .. ..Op .. .. ..IP .. ...ER .. ..Res

5/5 .. .. Key .. .. .. ...Cle .. .. .6 1/3 .. .. .3 .. .. ND

5/3 .. ...Mussina .. .. ..Min .. .. .7 2/3 .. .. .0 ...W 2-0

5/2 .. ...Erickson .. .. .Min .. .. .6 .. .. ..7 .. ...ND

5/1 .. ...Drabek .. .. ...Min .. .. .6 .. .. ..3 ...W 6-3

4/30 .. ..Key .. .. .. ...Chi .. .. .7 .. .. ..1 ...W 4-1

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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