Ripken eligible, not able, to return


Fearing fall `to beginning,' he'll wait for total recovery

August 18, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Cal Ripken remained on the disabled list yesterday and said he is still unsure when the nerve irritation in his lower back will ease, allowing him to resume conditioning drills and ultimately return from an absence dating to Aug. 1.

Eligible but not physically able to leave the DL, Ripken said he will wait until symptoms related to the nerve irritation are gone before he resumes activity. "I was very hopeful and optimistic that I'd be able to play by today. I'm a little disappointed by that," he said before last night's game. "But I've got to keep it straight. If I try to come back too soon it could set me back all the way to the beginning."

The open-ended delay represents an additional frustration to Ripken, who despite a career-high .335 average and 15 home runs has started only 68 of the Orioles' 118 games largely because of pain that first flared on Opening Day.

The condition has since arisen sporadically, driving Ripken to the disabled list for the first time in his career April 18-May 12. The Orioles' third baseman then constructed more than two productive months that carried him to 399 home runs and 2,968 hits.

Ripken has abstained from all baseball-related activities since going on the disabled list. He had hoped last week to resume swinging or running but persistent discomfort has altered the timetable.

As games slip away so, too, does Ripken's chance or reaching 3,000 hits this season. Of more consequence is the possibility of surgery if the condition persists.

Ripken, who turns 39 next week, referred to the possibility of surgery as "the end result" of an extended waiting period without improvement.

"After a certain period of time if it can't be fixed then you have to weigh all your options. [The nerve] laid down for 2 1/2 months without bothering me at all. If it reoccurs frequently or I can't get comfortable then obviously I have to look in that direction," he said.

Though Ripken said he hasn't undergone additional testing since receiving a cortisone shot earlier this month, he did visit Dr. Henry Bohlman, professor of orthopedics at Case Western University, while the team was in Cleveland.

Ripken's nerve irritation is believed related to stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that can contribute to inflammation.

"The condition of my back now is there's not too much room for the nerve to be right because the space in there is smaller," Ripken explained. "Before, I could will my way through a lot of things with a certain attitude. The nerve becomes inflamed and it stays inflamed and all the secondary symptoms come into play. So I'm going to let it die all the way down so I can have a margin for error."

Pub Date: 8/18/99

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