Ripken `little bummed out' by recovery

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Back spasms abate, but he is not ready to hit field

search on for No. 5 starter

August 14, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Though citing improvement in the condition of his back, Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken said last night that he's growing impatient with his recovery from the nerve irritation that forced him on the disabled list for the second time. He also has become less certain when he will be ready to be activated.

Ripken is eligible to rejoin the Orioles on Tuesday when they play Minnesota to begin a six-game homestand. He still hasn't began doing baseball-related activities, remaining in what trainer Richie Bancells called the "rest stages" of his rehab.

"It's still improving, but I was hoping for faster and more complete improvement so I can get after what I need to do," Ripken said. "I guess you've got to be patient."

Ripken received a cortisone shot on Aug. 3, and the spasms that forced him on the DL have subsided. But he's still waiting for the nerve to "be happy."

"It's got to die back down. It can't be inflamed," he said.

"I can't do anything that will reaggravate the nerve or I'll have to start over again. That's why it's disappointing. I'm a little bit bummed out because I had fixed a schedule in my own mind when it would be ready, but it's going to be ready when it's ready."

He paid a visit yesterday to Dr. Henry Bohlman, a professor of orthopedics at Case Western University who had given Ripken a cortisone shot in April. But it was more of a social call, Ripken said.

"If I wasn't here, I wouldn't have made a flight to see him," he said.

Bancells also couldn't project when the third baseman would return to the active roster.

"It's just kind of a day-to-day thing, and he's improving in steps each day," Bancells said.

"I think every player, when they go on the DL, wants to come off when the DL time is up. Every player takes that optimistic view except for the worst injuries. But there's no way to make that determination right now. When that day arrives, we'll see where he is. And he's probably going to be the best judge, as he was last time, to make that determination."

The chances of Ripken going on another injury-rehab assignment increase if he's out more than 15 days. "We all would sit down and have input on it," Bancells said, "but that's more of a comfort level with him in terms of where he feels baseball-wise.

"When he's able to, we'll start doing the strengthening things we need to do. But he's going to be able to determine better than anyone when he's going to be able to do the baseball stuff."

Fetters `getting closer'

Reliever Mike Fetters threw again in the bullpen yesterday, this time increasing his pitches to 50 and tweaking his routine to better simulate a real appearance.

Fetters rested after throwing 35, then completed his last 15 tosses to see how his elbow responded. He had last thrown in Tampa Bay on Wednesday, mixing in sliders after going exclusively with fastballs in an earlier session.

"I'm getting closer and closer [to returning]," he said. "I didn't throw any real good [sliders], but the thing is, the feel has to come back. The strength is coming, it's just that now I have to get my feel and timing."

Fetters, coming off surgery June 22 to remove bone chips and spurs from his elbow, remains unsure of the club's plans for him. He'll go on a minor-league rehab assignment and may not be activated until rosters expand next month.

"I'll just wait and see what they say. I know nothing. I'm just showing up when they tell me to and throwing when they tell me to."

Searching for No. 5

The Orioles' search for a fifth starter for games on Friday and Aug. 25 has taken general manager Frank Wren to Triple-A Rochester, where he's watching veteran Doug Linton and Calvin Maduro, who started 13 games with Philadelphia in 1997.

Linton, who made two starts among his eight appearances with the Orioles this season, appears the most likely candidate if the club decides to dip into the minor leagues. He is 6-5 with a 3.72 ERA and posted a 0.97 ERA in July. Maduro is 10-9 with a 3.87 ERA.

Prized left-hander Matt Riley remains a distant possibility, but is more likely to be recalled when rosters expand.

Manager Ray Miller also could use left-hander Doug Johns, who had 10 starts with the Orioles last season. He'd still prefer to keep Scott Kamieniecki in the bullpen. Ricky Bones, who made two starts after Juan Guzman was traded, isn't being considered.

"I told Frank, `Whatever you want to do.' I want the best guy available," Miller said.

No holding Orosco back

Miller repeated yesterday that he won't alter his approach to using his bullpen to assure that Jesse Orosco sets the major-league record for games pitched at home.

"I told Jesse I'm not going maneuver that around any chance to win. I can't do it," Miller said. "If he gets two games in this series, then we'll honor him when we get home.

"I'm darn sure not going to miss bringing Jesse where he pitches in the eighth inning if it's important."

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