Baines designated All-Star, too

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Veteran DH to replace injured Canseco

Ponson to start 2nd half for O's

July 12, 1999|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- Out of the lineup for a third consecutive day, designated hitter Harold Baines arrived at Veterans Stadium yesterday anticipating three days off on the Eastern Shore. But about an hour before the Orioles' first-half finale against the Philadelphia Phillies, Baines learned that he was being named as the team's fourth representative to tomorrow night's All-Star Game in Boston.

A back injury to Tampa Bay DH Jose Canseco forced manager Joe Torre and American League officials into scramble mode. They sought Baines to join teammates Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina and B. J. Surhoff.

American League vice president Phyllis Merhige phoned Orioles traveling secretary Phil Itzoe shortly before yesterday's game. Itzoe approached Baines, who was shocked by news that struck others as appropriate.

"I never expected it," said Baines, suddenly an All-Star for the sixth time.

Baines is sitting on a .345 batting average, 19 home runs and 63 RBIs. Per at-bat, only Cleveland right fielder Manny Ramirez is more productive than Baines.

"I don't think about that now. You reflect on stats after the season," Baines said. "The season is all about wins and losses."

Manager Ray Miller thought the honor significant enough to approach Baines before the game with a handshake and a compliment. "There are very few great things that happen in baseball," Miller said. "But this certainly is one of them. I don't think you could have a better representative of a professional athlete than Harold Baines. He's a professional hitter, a professional player."

The honor also carries a $50,000 bonus for Baines, a pending free agent considered a trade possibility as the July 31 waiver deadline approaches.

His outstanding season and yesterday's selection represent further vindication for owner Peter Angelos' decision to re-sign Baines to a one-year, $1.5 million deal last year. Baines' 367 career home runs, including a record-tying 219 as a DH, do not feature a 30-home run season. However, he is on pace for 37 homers and his first 100-RBI season since 1985.

"Right now it's a great honor, but I'm not emotional about it or anything," Baines said. "Come tomorrow, I'm pretty sure I will be."

If he plays, Baines will become the oldest player to appear in an All-Star Game since St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith played at 41 years, 6 months in 1996. Though records are sketchy, Baines' eight-year hiatus from the game is believed the longest by a position player since Chili Davis played in 1994 after appearing in 1986. Rick Monday reappeared in 1978 after a 10-year wait.

Riley finishes Futures Game

Matt Riley, the Orioles' top prospect, had to wait until two outs in the last inning before entering yesterday's All-Star Futures Game in Boston. And he needed only one pitch to complete his work, getting a grounder to first base and racing to the bag to take the throw in the USA's 7-0 loss to the World team.

Riley, a left-hander who's 6-1 with a 2.66 ERA at Double-A Bowie, was the last USA pitcher to be called into the seven-inning game. He also was the youngest at 19.

"I'm happy. It's an honor just to be here," he said while standing outside his team's dugout at Fenway Park. "It's an awesome feeling when the stands are packed. That's like a kid's dream, being on the field with all these fans."

All-Stars on parade

Though the roster hasn't been set, Surhoff is expected to swing for the American League during today's home run hitting contest. He will likely be joined by Toronto right fielder Shawn Green, Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and Seattle center fielder Ken Griffey. Ramirez and Texas first baseman Rafael Palmeiro declined an invitation to participate.

Ripken gets a down day

The first half ended quietly for Cal Ripken. Even with the three-day break approaching, Miller held to his conviction of resting the 38-year-old third baseman on artificial turf and in a day game after a night game. Less obvious were Ripken's career woes against Phillies starter Chad Ogea. While with the Indians, Ogea held Ripken to a career .097 (3-for-31) average.

Coupled with his stay on the disabled list, Ripken missed 29 games in the first half but produced his best start (.313, 12 home runs, 38 RBIs) since 1996.

Curiously, the Orioles chose to abstain from a celebration at home by delaying announcement of assuming Ripken's option until the club reached Philadelphia.

Present consumes Hairston

Every day seems to offer further insight into rookie second baseman Jerry Hairston's game. Yesterday Hairston participated in three double plays and hit a leadoff double that led to a fourth-inning run. Hairston enters the All-Star break with a seven-game hitting streak in which he has five extra-base hits and a four-hit game.

Miller has not contributed to any hyperbole accompanying Hairston's performance for two reasons: Delino DeShields is expected to be ready to return from the disabled list after the All-Star break and Miller wishes not to feed any impression that he influences personnel moves.

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