Ripken delay isn't a surprise to Miller

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Time in trainer's room, not field, was clue

Clark sits

Orosco waits on brink

August 15, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- Orioles manager Ray Miller said yesterday that he already had assumed that third baseman Cal Ripken wouldn't be ready to come off the disabled list Tuesday, as the Iron Man indicated after Friday's game.

"I knew that because he should have been on the field the last day or two and not in the trainer's room," Miller said.

"We miss him."

Ripken has expressed disappointment in the length of time it's taken to recover from the nerve irritation in his back that forced him on the DL for a second time. Though noting improvement in his condition, he seemed resigned to waiting beyond Tuesday for his return to the active roster.

"It's still improving," he said after Friday's game, "but I was hoping for faster and more complete improvement so I can get after what I need to do. 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 bummed because I had fixed a schedule in my own mind when it would be ready."

Ryan Minor again started in Ripken's place yesterday, going 0-for-3. He's 8-for-33 (.242) in 11 games since being recalled for a second time on Aug. 3.

Minor had a difficult time in the field Friday, committing an error to open the eighth that ignited a three-run rally and failing to make an earlier play that led to a run. But Miller indicated that Minor will remain in the lineup, as general manager Frank Wren has requested.

"Frank asked me to play him and give him a chance," Miller said. "He deserves the right to play. He's a good athlete. He's just got to calm down and play."

Sore elbow shelves Clark

Will Clark was held out yesterday because of a sore left elbow.

Miller waited to complete his lineup card until learning of Clark's status. He then wrote in Jeff Conine at first and Harold Baines as the designated hitter. Conine proved a worthy addition by homering in the second inning and singling in the seventh for two of the Orioles' four hits.

"Will stretched his elbow out a little bit [Friday]," Miller said.

Clark has appeared in 77 of the Orioles' 116 games. At various times this season, he's also been bothered by soreness in his knee, ankle and left thumb, which he fractured in April. He's hitting .360 (9-for-25) in his last eight games.

Give me more

Miller expressed a desire to reduce the pitching staff to 11 so he can add another bench player and expand his options in the late innings.

"We've got to get to the point where we have 11 pitchers. We've just got to," Miller said. "The way our bench is set up now, we usually either have Baines or Conine sitting there. That's one hitter. You get in all these situation in the eighth where you can pinch-hit now and try to win the game or do you save the guy in case they tie it up or go ahead, for the bottom of the order."

Asked what's preventing him from going with 11 pitchers now, Miller said, "Good point."

"I'm sure we'll do something, probably by [today] or Monday."

The club also must decide on a fifth starter for Friday's game against Chicago at Camden Yards. Triple-A Rochester's Doug Linton remains a possibility. So does left-hander Doug Johns, who allowed two runs in three innings yesterday.

Orosco on the brink

Jesse Orosco remains one appearance away from setting the record for most games pitched with 1,072. If he's not used tonight, the milestone will come during the club's six-game homestand that begins Tuesday against Minnesota -- just as Orosco prefers.

Orosco's wife and three children were here to share in Friday's moment, when Orosco entered in the eighth inning to tie Dennis Eckersley. They waited outside the clubhouse, exchanged hugs, then sat in the dugout to watch a fireworks display.

They were supposed to fly back to Baltimore this morning, but were considering a change in plans in case the record fell here.

Orosco began warming in the eighth inning of Friday's game with the score tied, 3-3. By the time Miller called for him with left-hander Jim Thome coming up, the Indians were ahead 6-3.

The fans at Jacobs Field weren't informed that Orosco had tied Eckersley's record. To them, it was just another appearance, with no significance attached.

"You could see nobody even knew it had happened. They know in Baltimore because you guys [reporters] have put the hype on it and everything," Orosco said.

"It's not so much for the recognition I get on this, but it's just nice to have it happen where you play. I had mentioned to Ray about trying to get it at home and he said, `Whatever happens, happens. We'll see.' "

Miller continues to say he'll use Orosco as needed, but he's expected to skip the left-hander tonight unless the game stretches into extra innings.

"It's in his control," Orosco said. "There's nothing I can do about it. I'd like to get it at home, but I want to get it over with, too, and relax a little bit after that."

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