Ripken begins cortisone shots

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Back condition not seen as career threat

DeShields bats leadoff, Anderson 3rd

April 21, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Orioles traveled light Sunday night and arrived yesterday afternoon to a solemn clubhouse.

First baseman Will Clark and third baseman Cal Ripken, the most vocal and the most distinguished members of their party, remained in Baltimore, hostages to the disabled list. The club officially placed both on the DL yesterday and promoted infielder Jesse Garcia from Triple-A Rochester.

Ripken received the first in a series of cortisone injections yesterday as treatment for what a Cleveland orthopedic doctor diagnosed Monday as "nerve irritation" in his lower back unrelated to a pre-existing herniated disk. The Orioles put Ripken on the DL retroactive to Sunday, when back pain caused him to be scratched from the lineup.

Ripken will rest the back for at least four to five days before another injection. Meanwhile, the Orioles insist that the condition is not career-threatening and that surgery has yet to be considered.

A source familiar with the situation underscored that there is "concern" about the long-term implications of Ripken's condition, but that he has every intention of playing out the season.

A similar approach is apparently being taken as in 1997, when the disk problem threatened to end Ripken's consecutive-games streak. Ripken was then presented the possibility of season-ending surgery but rejected it. Dr. Henry Bohlman apparently offered the option to Ripken Monday. But like two years ago, Ripken decided to pursue a less invasive option.

Clark received a second opinion yesterday regarding his broken left thumb and will not undergo surgery, according to club officials. He will miss at least the next four weeks.

Manager Ray Miller said yesterday that a roster vacancy will remain until Saturday when either pitcher Rocky Coppinger or Jason Johnson will be recalled from Rochester. Whoever is promoted will likely start Saturday's home game against the Oakland A's.

The loss of Clark necessitated Brady Anderson's insertion into the lineup's No. 3 spot and Delino DeShields being elevated to leadoff. For Anderson, who went 0-for-5, last night marked the first time since Sept. 4, 1990, and the seventh time in his major-league career that he has batted third.

DeShields, who spent most of his NL career batting at the top of the lineup, welcomed his promotion to the leadoff spot after six of his previous seven starts left him eighth or ninth.

"You've got to do it no matter where he puts you. There really isn't much to talk about until something happens. But I do prefer being at the top of the lineup," said DeShields, who was hitless in two at-bats but walked three times.

Since missing virtually all of spring training with a broken left thumb, DeShields has struggled offensively. He is hitting only .083 with one run and one RBI in eight games. However, only Anderson (four) and Albert Belle (three) have more than DeShields' two stolen bases.

Around the horn

The Devil Rays lead the American League in fielding with only four errors. Entering last night, five players had committed more errors than the entire Devil Rays' roster -- Montreal second baseman Wilton Guerrero and Chicago White Sox third baseman Greg Norton with six apiece, and Ripken, Anaheim shortstop Andy Sheets and San Francisco shortstop Rich Aurilia with five each. Sunday's appearance was the 200th of Arthur Rhodes' career. Mike Fetters reached No. 400 on Friday. Tampa Bay's Wade Boggs returned after sitting out two games with the flu. He went 2-for-4 to give him 2,932 hits, moving into a 26th-place tie with former Oriole Willie Keeler. Former Orioles reliever Moe Drabowsky was one of three athletes elected to the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in Orchard Lake, Mich. Jenny Romatowski and Joe Klecko also will be inducted.

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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