Ripken takes BP, throws well

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Wrist getting stronger

C. Johnson rises in order

Miller speaks well of Belle

July 20, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Though he wasn't in the lineup last night, Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken pushed the recovery on his injured right wrist a little further yesterday by taking live batting practice and making some strong throws around the infield. Convinced he won't need to go on the disabled list with a deep bone bruise, Ripken repeated his day-to-day status and said he could be ready for tonight's game against the New York Mets.

Ripken hasn't played since being hit by a pitch from Montreal's Mike Thurman Thursday. He took ground balls at third on Sunday, making light tosses and flexing the wrist. He also swung in the cage, the only activity that still brings some discomfort.

Before taking the field yesterday, Ripken said, "It's coming along pretty good. I kind of felt it [Sunday] but was able to do quite a few things in the cage. My plans today are to take it a little further and test it and see where it is.

"The hardest part was hitting. When I came out of the game the other day, I couldn't take the bat further than halfway. I'm able to swing the bat now and do some things. I guess only time will tell when it'll be satisfactory to play."

Ripken took 17 swings against bullpen catcher Sammy Snider, the 11th sending the ball over the left-field fence. "He looked good," said manager Ray Miller, who stood behind the cage.

Asked if he had a timetable for his return, Ripken said, "As soon as I can. As soon as it feels like I can swing the bat and do the job at the plate.

"I'm very hopeful. It improved a lot from one day to the next and it continues to go that way."

Miller said that Ripken was hopeful of playing tonight, adding, "It would be nice to have him be able to play defense. I'm going to leave that up to him. Only he knows how he feels. Obviously he made miles of progress [Sunday]. He heals quick."

In the meantime, Ripken has been offering some advice to Ryan Minor, who started his third game since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester. Ripken could be seen chatting with the rookie on the bench during Sunday's game.

"Ryan's going to be a heck of a ballplayer," Ripken said. "In some cases I think his development has been going up and down. He got a lot of hype after his year in A-ball [in 1997], and he just needs time to develop and learn.

"Anything I can do to help make him feel a little bit more comfortable, I'll be glad to do."

C. Johnson moves up to 7th

Miller moved up catcher Charles Johnson to seventh in the order last night, behind Will Clark and ahead of rookies Jerry Hairston and Minor.

Johnson has hit ninth in 56 games this season. Minor batted seventh in his first two games after being summoned from Rochester, going 0-for-6 with three strikeouts.

"I'm just trying to back Will up a little bit," Miller said. "Ryan looks like he's feeling [his way around] a little bit and Jerry's starting to hack at everything. I'm just trying to put a power threat behind Will."

Minor was 0-for-1 with a walk before Jeff Conine hit for him in the seventh and Hairston was 0-for-3, though third baseman Robin Ventura took away a hit in the fifth inning.

Miller praises Belle

As he has done many times this season, Miller offered some positive remarks concerning right fielder Albert Belle.

"He's been hitting quite a bit, probably since Atlanta. I think Albert's adequate in right field. He has a strong arm," Miller said.

"He's going to take a beating. Anytime we don't do well he's going to get blamed for a lot of it. He prepares and he gives you an effort. That's all I can say."

There was more. Asked what type of influence Belle was on the club, Miller said, "I don't see where he's a negative. Unfortunately, I was stupid enough to flip on the radio in the afternoon the other day and listened to a talk show. A guy said he was a cancer in the clubhouse and nobody likes him. This guy's never been in the clubhouse. [Belle] plays cards with everybody and has a lot of friends on the club. I don't think he has many friends among you guys [reporters], but he kids around with guys during the game and makes light of things in a good-natured way. I don't see any problems in that area."

Cone gem a delight for Figga

Of all the Orioles who watched in the clubhouse as New York's David Cone completed his perfect game on Sunday, none enjoyed the moment more than catcher Mike Figga, the former Yankee who caught Cone this spring.

"I thought it was outstanding. It couldn't happen to a better guy," said Figga, who was claimed off waivers by the Orioles on June 3. "He's been through a lot of ups and downs in his career. To do it at Yankee Stadium, I think it's great."

Figga was impressed with Cone's efficiency. He often runs high pitch counts, but needed only 88 to put away Montreal.

"He usually goes 3-2 on everybody because he throws so much -- I guess you could call it junk -- sliders and forkballs, and if they don't chase, he goes to full counts on everybody," Figga said. "[Sunday] he didn't have one three-ball count, which proves what kind of stuff he had."

Fiery warm-up

A fire of unknown origin broke out above the ivy-covered wall beyond center field around 4 p.m. yesterday, lasting nearly five minutes and leaving a large burn mark near where four television cameras were stationed.

Around the horn

Second baseman Delino DeShields will remain on his minor-league rehab assignment for at least a few more days. "He's still not able to take that explosive step, accelerate," Miller said. "From what I understand he's going to wait through Wednesday or Thursday and continue to play and see if it gets any better." Rickey Henderson has scored 2,061 runs, one behind Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time list. With five last night, the Mets have drawn a league-leading 431 walks. San Francisco was second with 406. Sidney Ponson, who starts tonight, is 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA against the NL this year. Both wins, against Atlanta and Montreal, were complete games.

Pub Date: 7/20/99

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