Ripken gets OK to begin exercise

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Third baseman may start on stabilization program

surgery is consideration

August 25, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Cal Ripken's recovery from nerve inflammation in his lower back cleared a minor hurdle yesterday when he received permission from the team's medical staff to perform light exercises and to toss a ball for the first time since he landed on the disabled list Aug. 1.

Ripken refrained from projecting when he might return, but it is virtually certain that he will not be activated before the team returns to Baltimore for a seven-game homestand beginning next Tuesday.

The issue now stretches beyond Ripken's pursuit of his 400th home run and 3,000th hit. There are increasing organizational concerns whether Ripken should undergo surgery to address a condition that, if uncorrected, will likely dog him the rest of his career.

Asked if his second stint on the disabled list seems as long as the first, Ripken answered: "It seems forever."

Trainer Richie Bancells has put together a trunk stabilization program for Ripken that the third baseman could begin today. Ripken indicated he still experiences discomfort but has repeatedly said he has yet to consider strongly surgery during or after this season.

"It's kind of a touchy subject," said Orioles manager Ray Miller. "He needs one home run for 400 and so many hits [32] for 3,000. You can say get ready and play the last three weeks and you have a chance to help the ballclub and add to those numbers. I think he's right in between now on what to do."

Ripken, who yesterday celebrated his 39th birthday, has missed nearly as many games (57) as he has started (68). Yesterday marked the 24th day of his current stay on the disabled list.

He missed 26 days earlier this season when disabled April 18.

"I haven't added up the days but they both seem like a real test of your patience. It seems like a long time. It's not fun sitting around waiting to pass the time," Ripken said.

The methodical pace has at times frustrated the third baseman, who initially believed the current condition less problematic than his bout earlier this season. Until recently, Ripken said he experienced a constant reminder of his nerve irritation and found plane rides and other extended periods of sitting difficult.

Monday night's game represented another incremental improvement as Ripken dressed and was able to sit on the bench for much of the Orioles' 4-2 win. Ripken had not dressed during the team's recent six-game homestand.

"I was pretty comfortable," Ripken said. "Obviously, you don't want to sit in one spot on a hard bench for too long. But it felt pretty good. It felt good today."

Ripken all but conceded he won't play in this weekend's three-game series at Tiger Stadium, the Orioles' last trip to the corner of Michigan and Trumbull before the Tigers move to a state-of-the-art downtown facility. Ripken reflected on the 1984 season -- his third full season in the major leagues -- in which the Tigers went wire-to-wire to win the American League East before capturing their first World Series since 1968.

"Competing in that atmosphere packed houses, the enthusiasm of the fans and the history of the ballpark it was a great experience to be able to be there in a World Series atmosphere. I'd like to do it. I'd like to play, period."

Anderson rivals '92

Three weeks after painful bone spurs in his right ankle nearly forced him onto the disabled list, center fielder Brady Anderson is on pace for a season remarkably similar to 1992 when he constructed one of the most productive seasons ever by a leadoff hitter.

Entering last night's game against the Kansas City Royals, Anderson was on pace for 22 home runs, 81 RBIs, 106 walks, 113 runs scored and 38 stolen bases. He also enjoyed a combined on-base percentage and slugging percentage of . 900.

In 1992, Anderson's breakthrough major-league season, he hit 21 home runs with 80 RBIs, 98 walks, 100 runs scored and 53 stolen bases.

"There were a couple days in Oakland [Aug. 3-4] when I almost walked off because of the discomfort," said Anderson, referring to his first two days back after receiving three days off. "I thought there was a good chance I'd end up on the DL."

Anderson has instead returned to hit in 19 of the Orioles' past 20games, including two home runs in last night's game. In the last 37 games, he is hitting .364 (51-for-140).

"Since '92, I've put up pretty solid numbers every year," Anderson said. "Last year was a difficult season for me because of injuries but in '96 and '97 I produced even though I was limited at times. The difference was that in '96 and '97 there were things that kept me from running for extended periods. Except for the ankle, that hasn't been the case this season."

Anderson's '96 season -- 50 home runs, 110 RBIs and 117 runs scored -- remains the most prolific by a leadoff hitter in the game's history.

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