Ripken heartened by brief workout

He gives back a test, taking grounders, BP

April 30, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Though still unable to project a return to the Orioles' lineup, Cal Ripken said yesterday that he's encouraged by the way his lower back has responded to physical exertion the last two days.

Ripken did some light running in the outfield yesterday before grabbing a glove and taking about 60 grounders at third base from coach Sam Perlozzo over a 10-minute period. He then stepped into the cage and took 20 swings, once clearing the fence in left-center field.

This was the busiest Ripken had been since going on the disabled list April 19 with nerve irritation in his lower back. A cortisone shot relieved the discomfort he felt on the right side, but Ripken said he still gets a numbing sensation down his left leg.

"I'm happy to say the affects of the shot have helped," said Ripken, who also had a cortisone shot after pain forced him to leave early on Opening Day. "To what level, I can't really categorize that. I still have some feeling of irritation and I'm hopeful that will continue to go away. It's being dealt with.

"It feels a little bit like if the leg starts to go to sleep. It's not overly concerning, but I'd like it not to be there."

He didn't show any signs of being restricted yesterday, though the balls hit to him by Perlozzo didn't necessitate much movement from side to side. He did, however, need to stretch to his right to snare a liner from Mike Bordick, who took early batting practice before Ripken in an attempt to shake a 1-for-17 slump going into last night.

"As far as bending over and things like that, I thought he was fine," Perlozzo said. "We'll just wait and see how he feels [today] and go from there. But I was pleased with the way he moved around. There were a couple balls hit hard and I was pleased with the way he reacted."

Ripken had hit indoors the previous day and also performed some trunk stabilization exercises to see how his body responded.

"I'm pretty happy with how I feel," he said. "I've got a little ways to go rehab-wise and strengthening-wise, but I'm very encouraged by today and yesterday."

Ripken isn't expected to be ready when eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday. The 16-time All-Star said he's still gathering information before deciding if surgery can be avoided and he can stick with his current treatments.

"I'm examining the alternatives and the possibilities. Pretty soon I'll be able to tell you what you need to know. But right now I'm still looking at all sides and trying to see what the ramifications are," he said.

"In the meantime, my body feels good enough to explore some of the rehab treatments and some of the exercises. You can't just sit around and do nothing. I'm in the stage of testing it and adding some exercises and seeing how my body tolerates it. That will help me make up my mind.

"I'm just examining the pros and cons of my alternatives. I'll be happy to give you that [an explanation] when I get to a comfort level of understanding it myself."

Ripken's workout came after several days in which he had arrived at Camden Yards to receive treatment from the team's training staff. He has typically left the park before the first pitch given that protracted periods of sitting promote stiffness in his lower back.

He did not attend Tuesday's lengthy clubhouse meeting in which players voiced grievances both against each other and manager Ray Miller. While rookie Willis Otanez has proved a competent offensive replacement, Ripken's absence cannot help but be noticed.

"He's pretty much the Orioles. I think there's a void here. It's not the same without him," said Bordick. "Even though he's not a vocal type of leader, I think he's somebody to lean on. He's Cal. He's the Orioles. I think anyone familiar with this team recognizes that."

Sun staff writer Joe Strauss contributed to this story.

Pub Date: 4/30/99

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