Ripken to revisit his back surgeon

Ailing Oriole expects to join team in Calif. after examination today

May 15, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Insisting the visit suggests nothing more than regular maintenance for his surgically repaired back, Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken will be examined this morning by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Henry Bohlman in Cleveland.

The visit to University Hospitals comes nearly eight months after Bohlman operated on Ripken's lower back and only three days after Ripken was diagnosed with inflammation of two nerve roots in the same region. Ripken underwent a magnetic resonance imaging on Friday and met yesterday with team orthopedic physician Dr. Michael Jacobs. He spent much of the weekend lying on a trainer's table and spent little time on the bench as the Orioles were swept four games by Boston.

"This was something that had been planned before. It just happens to come at a convenient time, I guess," he said after yesterday's 10-1 loss to the Red Sox.

Ripken plans to fly to Anaheim, Calif., this afternoon after being examined by Bohlman and reiterated he doesn't expect to land on the disabled list for the third time in two seasons.

"I'll be in Anaheim," he said, referring to the club's two-game series that begins tomorrow.

Ripken could not say his back felt significantly better than on Friday, when he told manager Mike Hargrove that persistent pain would make him ineffective in the field. Following an off-season committed to rigorous, often tedious rehabilitation, Ripken admitted being "disappointed" by the latest episode, which was triggered by his making a dive after a ball in Thursday's sixth inning. Earlier in the game he had hit his seventh home run. He is second on the team with 23 RBIs.

"The idea was to give it two, three or four days to improve," Ripken said. "Fortunately, we have an off day thrown in. The plan is to rest the back and let [the nerves] calm down."

Club officials have consistently downplayed Ripken's latest discomfort and attribute the flare-up to his aggressive rehabilitation from surgery. Ripken resumed his baseball-related activities barely three months after surgery.

While Bohlman is expected to advise Ripken on ways to keep playing, the Orioles privately acknowledge that any need for further surgery would bring an end to the 39-year-old's Hall of Fame career. Ripken indicated this spring that he would allow his body to dictate his career path beyond this season.

Hargrove termed Ripken as "day-to-day" before yesterday's game and repeated that a decision on Ripken's status wouldn't have to come before flying to Anaheim.

"We need to allow the nerve to settle down at this point. Once that happens, he'll be ready to go. It just takes time," Hargrove said.

"A plane ride's not very good for it, but it's better than diving and twisting."

Ripken said scar tissue is irritating the nerves. He also admitted Friday to experiencing more pain than last year, when his mobility was more limited by frequent muscle spasms around the irritation. He finally submitted to surgery Sept. 23 after playing 86 games.

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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