Ripken steps up work, takes batting practice

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

3rd baseman fields round of BP, but declines to say when he'll be ready to play

August 29, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- Cal Ripken attempted to tap the healing powers of Tiger Stadium one more time yesterday when he took batting practice for the first time since going on the disabled list Aug. 1, increasing both the duration and degree of difficulty of his pre-game work at third base.

Yesterday marked 28 days since Ripken last played.

During his extended activities, Ripken fielded a full round of batting practice and fielded grounders off the fungo of bullpen catcher Sam Snider. Unlike Friday, when he remained virtually stationary while taking ground balls, Ripken ranged to his glove side. Because of a combination of his uncertain condition and a choppy infield that contributed to third baseman Ryan Minor taking a ball off his face Friday, Ripken did not catch balls off the bat or attempt to backhand any ground balls from Snider.

"There's no way that I can tell you where I'll be three or four days from now. Things are moving pretty rapidly. I'm very happy with the way things have gone so far. I can't say when for sure I'll be ready, but I want to be ready as fast as I can," Ripken said.

"I want to play and not be on the disabled list. But now I've got to make sure that I'm ready to play."

During Ripken's first stay on the disabled list this season, he used Tiger Stadium as a proving ground before bolting for Sarasota, Fla., and three days of work in simulated games. That opportunity no longer presents itself, so Ripken will continue his work at Camden Yards this week.

Ripken hedged on a time frame. He initially expected to return when first eligible, but his progress flattened during his second week on the disabled list. Ripken has recently begun a trunk stabilization program and also jogged the bases yesterday. Unlike this spring, he isn't concerned about rust inhibiting his return.

"At that time [in May], I didn't have anything to fall back on. I didn't have many at-bats at the time. I had to go somewhere to get comfortable because I needed at-bats to do that. I'm not really concerned about that now," he said. "I don't know now how many at-bats I have [269], but I have enough to be able to swing OK. I haven't gotten out of shape."

Reboulet in, Minor out

A difficult road trip finally led Ray Miller to sit Minor yesterday in favor of seldom-seen Jeff Reboulet. Minor became the focal point of the Tigers' three-run fifth inning Friday. Two bunts became singles and Damion Easley's two-hop grounder caught Minor on the side of the face. Minor remained in the game but finished 0-for-3, dropping his average to .197 since his Aug. 3 promotion from Rochester, and 0-for-14 with six strikeouts during the road trip.

"I thought we'd give him a rest today and let him spend some time with [hitting coach Terry Crowley]," Miller said. "He had a tough game last night and I thought it would be a good idea to get Reb in there for a day."

Miller said he intends to start Minor today against left-hander C. J. Nitkowksi. The Orioles then enjoy a day off before beginning a seven-game homestand.

Same pace, different place

Harold Baines didn't waste any time contributing to the Cleveland Indians, doubling home both runs of Friday night's 2-1 win over Tampa Bay after he hurriedly left the Orioles in Detroit following a deal for two minor-league pitchers, Juan Aracena and a pitcher to be named. Jimmy Hamilton, a left-hander at Triple-A Buffalo, is believed to be the pitcher.

Baines told Cleveland reporters that Friday's trade caught him by surprise but that he welcomed the chance to play in the postseason, something that had become irrelevant in Baltimore.

"It's nice to be playing for something," Baines said. "After 20 years, I still don't have a ring. It's nice to be playing for a team that has a chance to win."

Baines had been the subject of trade rumors in Toronto before the July 31 waiver deadline, but the Blue Jays instead acquired first baseman David Segui from the Seattle Mariners. "I figured after July 31 I wasn't going anywhere," Baines said. "From what I heard, I wasn't available."

A pending free agent, Baines may re-sign with the Orioles this winter. However, his current preoccupation is reaching the second World Series of his career. His only other such experience came with the 1990 Oakland A's, who were swept by the Cincinnati Reds.

Baines contributed an RBI to the Indians' 3-0 win yesterday. Hitting fifth, he will have ample run-producing opportunities. He has batted fifth in both games since the trade.

The waiver trade for Baines also involved talks for starting pitcher Scott Erickson. Apparently Orioles general manager Frank Wren rejected one of Jaret Wright for Erickson. Wright has endured two stays on the disabled list this season and has struggled the rest of the year. Since July, Wren sought a three-player package for Erickson that Indians general manager John Hart considered excessive.

Around the horn

Yesterday's loss dropped the Orioles to 11-23 in one-run games. It also dropped them to 14-38 when committing an error. Weekday game times will change in the middle of the upcoming three-game series vs. the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Tuesday's game is set for a 7: 35 p.m. start; the remaining two start at 7: 05 p.m. Thereafter, every other weekday home game will start at 7: 05 except for the Labor Day clash with the Indians, a 1: 35 p.m. start. Miller was impressed enough with Doug Johns' start Friday that he will start Saturday if Mike Mussina is unable to make his next start.

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