Miller: Club to discuss streak after the season Team would have more of a say over decision in '99

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

September 20, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

While implying The Streak is safe for now, manager Ray Miller confirmed yesterday that the club will likely discuss the future of Cal Ripken's record consecutive-games run after this season, leaving open the possibility this may be the last year the Orioles third baseman plays all 162 games.

"It's something we'll probably talk about," said Miller.

Pressed on whether any decision to sit Ripken this season would rest with the player, Miller said, "I would like to think as far as this year goes that would be the logical thing."

Miller has been left to address uncomfortable questions within an organization that has long debated how best to handle the issue, which is revived now that the Orioles face imminent elimination from the wild-card race. Miller's comments yesterday are the first indication that a move may be afoot to take control of an issue previously left to Ripken. Like his predecessor, Davey Johnson, Miller has long said that a manager does not possess the autonomy to unilaterally end The Streak.

"I don't know where it goes," said Miller. "It's common sense that we talk to him. I would like to think it would be his option. If a decision has to be made, it will be made. If it's the right thing to do, it will be done."

The Orioles remain unsure who will play first base next year given Rafael Palmeiro's pending free agency. Though a minority opinion, one option is for the club to pursue a free-agent third baseman such as Dean Palmer or Robin Ventura and have Ripken convert to first base. A more popular idea suggests Ripken remain at a position where he has committed only eight errors this season, but spell him occasionally.

Ripken told an Orioles club official that he had no comment after yesterday's 5-3 win.

Miller indicated earlier this week that Ripken would "probably" start the remainder of the Orioles' games, leaving third base prospect Ryan Minor to either follow Ripken in late innings or play sporadically at first base.

Ripken remains one of nine players -- and three Orioles -- to have played every game this year.

Pickering breaks through

Calvin Pickering's first major-league start ended in three strikeouts against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Yesterday's experience against Cy Young Award candidate David Cone produced a more positive memory.

Pickering, who led the Eastern League in home runs and RBIs this season, hammered Cone for a bases-empty home run in the seventh inning for both his first major-league hit and RBI.

"In my dreams I've always seen my first major-league hit being a home run," said Pickering. "Today my dream happened."

For those who have seen his transformation from a lethargic, overweight underachiever, it is a dream deserved. The homer off Cone culminated a year in which he attended a diet clinic at Duke University, produced an impressive spring training and overcame a sluggish start at Double-A Bowie.

"I worked real hard in the off-season and during the whole [regular] season," said Pickering, who remains on a rigid diet to ,, keep his weight under control. "It's tough. I was eating bad foods. Now I cook for myself."

Pickering has immersed himself in tutoring sessions with bench coach and former All-Star first baseman Eddie Murray, third base/infield coach Sam Perlozzo and Rochester manager Marv Foley. His raw defensive tendencies included improper footwork and balky glove technique, both of which have shown significant improvement since his arrival.

"He's very quick at learning," said Miller. "He still has to work at it. But for a big guy he's fairly light-footed. That's one part of the game you truly have to work on."

Miller hesitated when asked if Pickering might reach the major leagues as a designated hitter then ease his way to first base. Miller said such a progression happens only rarely then remembered that Murray reached Baltimore the same way.

"You'd have to be a dominant force. Eddie was. This kid might be," Miller said.

Around the horn

The Orioles held a novel promotion before yesterday's game as part of fan appreciation festivities. Palmeiro selected a young fan at random to throw out the first pitch. A stunned Chris Connor, 6, from North Beach, came onto the field to do the honors. The promotion will be repeated today, supposedly with Ripken selecting the lucky fan. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter stole his 30th base.

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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