Ripken's back ready to move on


He may rejoin O's, do stint in minors

Kamieniecki `body language' criticized

May 10, 1999|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- The Orioles may decide today whether third baseman Cal Ripken will require a rehab assignment before leaving the disabled list. Ripken put himself through a rigorous workout before yesterday's game and emerged confident he is physically ready to play after missing three weeks with what is described as "nerve irritation" in his lower back.

"I don't know an exact timetable," Ripken said minutes before yesterday's 5-0 win over the Detroit Tigers. "I don't want to push it. I want to show some patience and not run the risk of reinjuring it by doing something too fast. I want to do it gradually as opposed to all at once."

The club has several options: Ripken could be activated immediately, be sent to one of its affiliates for a rehab assignment or go to the team's Sarasota, Fla., minor-league facility, where he could get a rush of at-bats by leading off every inning during controlled scrimmages.

"I would think soon the discussion would escalate into, `OK, now what?' I can't say exactly when it will happen, but very soon," Ripken said.

Assistant general manager Bruce Manno said no decision has been made, but he would speak with Ripken, manager Ray Miller and general manager Frank Wren before tonight's game. Meanwhile, Ripken has escalated the degree of difficulty involved in his daily workouts. He took 10 minutes of uninterrupted batting practice as well as making cross-firing throws from third base. Feedback was positive, and Ripken said he continues to "add on" elements.

"When you field ground balls when you first come back, you throw in a more controlled state, not necessarily thinking about a runner," he said. "So now you think about a quicker situation where Kenny Lofton's running and you have to make a play. You add on a tougher throw. You add on a backhand play. You're making the play at game speed."

Should the club opt for Ripken to make a rehab assignment, Double-A Bowie would appear the logical destination. The Baysox are at home beginning on Thursday against Reading. The end of the rehab assignment could then coincide with the Orioles' return from their 10-game road trip next Monday. Single-A Frederick begins a four-game homestand tonight against Wilmington.

Cramps sideline DeShields

Second baseman Delino DeShields was a late scratch from the lineup because of cramping in his lower back and legs. He flew to Cleveland yesterday rather than ride the bus with the team, and Miller said he's hopeful DeShields will be ready to play tonight.

Jeff Reboulet, who had been penciled in as the third baseman, moved to second and Willis Otanez took over at the hot corner.

DeShields was coming off his first multi-hit game this season. He homered, singled and stole two bases Saturday while again batting behind Brady Anderson.

Miller had intended to give Otanez another day off while in the midst of a 5-for-32 slump. Otanez didn't have an extra-base hit in that span. He's also 8-for-45 (.178) since his average peaked at .346 on April 21.

"The kid's not swinging at strikes," said Miller.

Otanez continued to labor yesterday, going 0-for-4 and failing to get the ball out of the infield. His average dropped to .224.

Miller also started catcher Charles Johnson rather than pair Lenny Webster with starter Scott Erickson. Webster has been cleared to play after being hit on the side of the right hand and wrist by Ray Durham's bat in Thursday's game against Chicago, but Johnson began yesterday on a 10-for-20 tear that included three homers in this series.

"I think Lenny is fine, but Charles is swinging the bat good," Miller said. "I'm not one to impede that at this moment."

Wise choice. Yesterday marked the fifth time in his career he's homered in three straight games.

`Body language' criticized

Miller said he plans to have another discussion with Scott Kamieniecki, who couldn't find the plate Saturday in his first start since August, walking four and allowing six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings.

"Like I said, I've got all the patience in the world if you get hit, but when you're walking people there's not much you can do or say," Miller said.

Miller was just as disturbed by Kamieniecki's "bad body language" on the mound, where he showed little inclination for masking his disgust and frustration.

" It was very poor," Miller said. "I don't know what message it gives to the opposition, but the umpires certainly don't like it. It doesn't send a very good message to your ballclub, either. He did that when he's pitching well, too, but it doesn't help matters.

"He's not a real positive person. That's just his makeup, which is fine because a lot of people aren't real positive but they're pretty good players. But they don't basically show it."

Kamieniecki's next turn in the rotation comes Thursday in Texas.

"Hopefully he'll come around," Miller said. "There's a lot of time and money invested in him."

A break for Anderson

The Orioles won't face a left-handed starter in Cleveland. That's good news for Anderson, who is hitting .309 (25-for-81) vs. right-handers and only .136 (3-for-22) vs. lefties.

It's a trend that took off last season, when Anderson hit .179 against lefties while playing through an assortment of injuries.

"It looks to me like he's pulling off the ball a little bit and it's cutting his swing off," Miller said.

Around the horn

Detroit was shut out for a league-leading sixth time. Third baseman Dean Palmer fractured his right thumb while knocking down a shot from Albert Belle in the third inning. Rickey Henderson is first with 73 leadoff home runs, 41 more than Anderson. Tigers rookie Gabe Kapler extended his hitting streak to 10.

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