Stunned Minor just wants to help

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Ripken's sub surprised by call

DeShields rests legs

July 18, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Ryan Minor heard the news about Cal Ripken's wrist and said he thought nothing of it. The Orioles' third base prospect expected to stay at Triple-A Rochester, playing every day and hoping for a September promotion. No reason to believe his routine was about to change.

The news he wasn't anticipating arrived after Friday's game, with Minor being informed that he was being recalled by the Orioles as insurance in case Ripken's deep bone bruise keeps him out of the lineup longer than anticipated.

More than just a safeguard, Minor was in the lineup last night against Montreal and will remain there for as long as Ripken is out.

"I heard he had gotten hit in the hand or whatever, but Cal's one of those guys who's going to play, so I didn't think twice about it," Minor said while sitting at the locker that used to be assigned to catcher Lenny Webster.

"Plus the way things have been going, I didn't realize I'd be the guy who would get called up, with Delino [DeShields] getting ready to come off the disabled list. So I didn't worry about it."

Fresh off an appearance in the Triple-A All-Star Game, Minor was batting .244 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs. He also had struck out 106 times in 332 at-bats and had committed 10 errors in 88 games.

"I've been, off and on, pretty good," he said before going 0-for-3 with a strikeout last night. "My main goal was to get better this year and narrow the gap between consistency and being inconsistent. It's been coming along."

This isn't the first time Minor and Ripken have crossed paths. The former college basketball All- American took Ripken's place in the lineup on Sept. 20, when the Iron Man chose to end his record consecutive-games streak at 2,632. He went 1-for-4 that night and made a couple of exceptional defensive plays.

"That helped a lot, to be able to understand what it's like to be here," he said.

"These guys have been playing well and I want to step in and help them if I can, play solid defense and try to contribute offensively and not try to do too much. There's no timetable for how long I'll be here, so my main goal is to go out and play hard and help these guys win."

Manager Ray Miller said he didn't expect to hear anything else regarding Ripken's wrist until tomorrow. "Knowing Cal, by Monday he'll be ready to go."

And if not, Minor will continue to hold down the third base job.

"He's been playing good," Miller said. "I know he's a great athlete. He's been hitting some home runs and I know he's a great defensive player and he gives me [Jeff] Reboulet back over here [in the dugout] to play in case somebody needs a break."

DeShields stops by

DeShields was at Camden Yards yesterday to receive treatment on his right leg and take a night off from baseball.

He had played two games with lower Single-A Delmarva while rehabbing a strained hamstring and was scheduled to report to Single-A Frederick. Tightness in his legs led DeShields to seek rest before joining the Keys today.

"He said, `There aren't any setbacks, but my legs are really tight from playing two days,' so he came in and let the trainers work on him and he'll play [tonight]," Miller said. "I was a little upset because I read the word `setback' in the paper, but I didn't get any messages that there were any problems and he said he'll play [tonight]."

DeShields waved off reporters yesterday, saying, "Not talking."

Figga feels for Webster

As Webster packed his belongings in a box before Friday's game, signifying an end to his Orioles career, catcher Mike Figga sat nearby staring off into the distance. Looking at the expressions of the two players, it was hard to determine who had been designated for assignment and who was staying.

The acquisition of Figga on June 3 made Webster expendable. Webster's departure, in turn, made Figga uneasy.

"I'm glad I have a job, but I feel bad for Lenny. He's been here a long time and I hope everything works out for him. I know he wants to go play somewhere so I hope it works out," Figga said.

The club likes Figga's technique behind the plate and the offensive potential that produced 26 homers and 95 RBIs at Triple-A Columbus last season.

"You have to start thinking a little bit about the future and I guess we're all feeling that Mike Figga's got a high side to him age-wise [28], and he catches and receives well," Miller said. "And if you put him out there [on waivers], you're going to lose him for $20,000. Hopefully things will work out for Lenny. A lot of people want him, but nobody wants to give up anything, especially pitching."

As for his time in Baltimore, Webster said, "You have to think, I had a chance to play here in front of these fans for three years. I had a career year here [in 1998] and was given more of a chance to play here than I ever had in my career. It was quite an experience, one I'll never forget."

Around the horn

The flurry of player moves after Friday's game -- with Minor's recall, Rocky Coppinger being traded to Milwaukee, reliever Gabe Molina being sent to Rochester and reliever Ricky Bones being activated from the DL -- has reduced the pitching staff to 11 for the first time this season. Miller said he would be comfortable staying at that number "if our starters continue to pitch well." Carla Overbeck, a member of the U.S. Women's World Cup championship team, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch to bench coach Eddie Murray before tonight's game.

Pub Date: 7/18/99

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