Ripken reappears, but Conine still hurting


3rd basemen fight injuries

solid two innings keep Maduro in rotation mix

March 11, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

VIERA, Fla. -- The Orioles continue to wait on one third baseman, but last night kept a promise that Cal Ripken would return to the lineup.

Scratched from Thursday's exhibition win in Fort Lauderdale, Ripken drove himself to Space Coast Stadium yesterday and headed straight to the trainer's room. For almost 90 minutes Ripken received treatment on the stiff trapezius muscle along the left side of his neck.

The Iron Man emerged in time to participate in pre-game hitting and infield, then capped his night with an encouraging nine innings that included a 1-for-4 and two strong defensive stops in a 2-1 win over the Florida Marlins.

"I think results in spring training aren't that significant. There are certain things you like to see. My timing felt good tonight. I took [pitches] well. Tonight was the most comfortable I've felt in the box" this spring, Ripken said.

Ripken played nine innings for the first time since undergoing season-ending back surgery last Sept. 23. He singled to left field in the second inning and hit two towering fly balls knocked down by wind blowing in.

Asked about the significance of playing nine innings, Ripken cracked, "Probably to give Ryan Minor a break. He had to pick me up the other day when I was held out."

Ripken insisted he could have played on Thursday but left the decision to manager Mike Hargrove, who chose to exercise caution. Ripken experienced limited range of movement looking to his left and lowering his head.

Ripken returned to south Florida following the game, leaving Minor to start today's exhibition against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland.

The status of Jeff Conine is less clear. Conine received a cortisone injection in his irritated right shoulder on Thursday, making him unavailable for at least this weekend's road trip. He felt soreness in his rotator cuff after taking heavy daily doses of infield at third base, where he is trying to familiarize himself with a new position.

As the rotation turns

Hargrove said the time is quickly approaching for opinions to take shape, especially regarding the back end of his starting rotation. Calvin Maduro made his third start of camp last night with a solid two-inning appearance.

Maduro, who must make the club or be exposed to irrevocable waivers, breezed through his work with 22 pitches. Afterward, Hargrove confirmed he thinks it is possible both Maduro and Jose Mercedes could make the Opening Day roster, "especially with Scott Erickson out."

"With the younger players when you have guys going out there the third or fourth time, you start looking at where they're at," Hargrove said. "You start to notice how they handle the pressure of certain situations."

Mercedes has made the stronger first impression, having pitched five scoreless innings without walking a hitter.

Maduro gave a powerful counter last night despite being hit on the foot by a line drive from Marlins leadoff hitter Pablo Ozuna. Maduro also twisted his ankle trying to find first base while covering on a double play.

"So far, where I am is where I want to be," Maduro said, adding, "I don't think about all the other stuff" regarding the roster. "That creates too much pressure. I'm just trying to do my job when I'm out there."

DeMacio returns to road

Still visibly shaken, director of scouting Tony DeMacio left camp yesterday after his fiancee received follow-up treatment for injuries suffered during a robbery Wednesday night in Coral Springs, Fla.

The couple had stopped at a Wendy's before DeMacio was to scout a University of Miami game. They were attacked when a man suddenly shattered the passenger's side window, leaped into the car and grabbed a purse from DeMacio's fiancee. During the incident, she suffered a gash on a leg and on an elbow, necessitating more than 10 stitches, according to DeMacio.

"It was a very, very scary situation," DeMacio said. "I guess we're fortunate it wasn't worse. It's one of those things you never really anticipate happening. When it does, you're stunned."

DeMacio commended local law enforcement, who arrived almost immediately after the attack. At least one suspect remains at large, and he is believed to have had an accomplice.

Leader in the clubhouse

This week's disclosure that Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz must undergo season-ending elbow surgery leaves reliever Mike Trombley an interesting distinction. Trombley is now the most accomplished golfer on an active roster in the major leagues.

"I've always loved golf. I love the challenge. I love learning how to play the right way. Everybody has his own interest. Some guys like to hang at the bar. I like to go hit balls or get in nine holes," said Trombley, a winter resident of Fort Myers who lists three holes-in-one and several rounds of 66 as his proudest achievements.

Trombley began taking the game more seriously after college, though he once contemplated trying to walk on the golf team at Duke after he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins.

Like Smoltz, Trombley carries a 0.9 handicap, good enough to have attempted qualifying for a Nike Tour event. (He shot 74 with two double bogeys in poor weather; 70 qualified.)

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