Limited pre-game work aids Ripken

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Back better in games now

Riley joins Bowie

May 27, 2000|By Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko | Joe Strauss and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

As a concession to scar tissue that kept him out of the lineup earlier this month due to nerve irritation, third baseman Cal Ripken has abbreviated his extensive pre-game routine to allow himself more comfort once games begin. Ripken, who accidentally happened upon his new routine because of last Saturday's rainout in Texas, has refrained from on-field batting practice and pre-game infield in order to receive treatment and do light stretching.

Ripken's new routine calls for him to condense his preparation into the last hour before a game. As a result of anti-inflammatory medication and a cortisone shot he received in Cleveland nearly two weeks ago, he has found his flexibility enhanced but only for a specific window.

"I noticed when I couldn't get on the field in Texas, it was better. All I tried to do was try to limit my activities to what I needed to do to play in the games. I thought it would be better to get ready all at once instead of practicing and sweating and then changing and cooling down," Ripken said.

With his new schedule, Ripken stiffens less as games progress. On Tuesday he provided a dramatic ending to the Orioles' 4-2 win over the Seattle Mariners with a two-run homer in the ninth inning. He has also thrown more freely since returning from Cleveland. Last night he hit his ninth home run of the season, half as many as he had all last season.

"One day he feels good and one day he doesn't feel too good," said manager Mike Hargrove. "He's trying to find a routine that will allow his back to feel good for as long as possible. It's not a big deal."

Maduro gets to throw

Making his first significant movement toward returning to the active roster, pitcher Calvin Maduro did some soft tossing before last night's game. It was the first time he had thrown since going on the disabled list retroactive to May13 with a strained ligament in his right elbow.

Maduro is eligible to return tomorrow, but said his stay on the DL probably will extend "a little bit past that." The Orioles must decide whether to put Maduro in the bullpen and clear room, perhaps by sending Al Reyes to Triple-A Rochester, or attempt to sneak the Aruban right-hander through waivers before assigning him to the Red Wings.

Judging by Hargrove's comments yesterday, the Orioles intend on keeping Maduro.

"We really need him back," Hargrove said. "We need another arm. We need his arm."

Riley tries again at Bowie

Minor-league pitcher Matt Riley, trying to return from a strained rotator cuff and bruised reputation, will take a step backward by starting for Double-A Bowie tomorrow.

Riley,20, spent about 2 1/2 weeks at extended spring training in Sarasota, Fla., building arm strength after being forced on the disabled list. He made only two starts at Triple-A Rochester, allowing 11 earned runs and 15 hits in seven innings before the injury was diagnosed.

This followed a troubled spring that included late arrivals to the ballpark, a traffic accident and an arrest outside a Fort Lauderdale nightclub. Soreness in his left biceps delayed his throwing, and Riley was limited to one two-inning appearance before being sent to the minor-league camp.

"We just want him to be relaxed and throw all of his pitches for strikes," said farm director Don Buford, who's in Rochester, N.Y., this weekend.

Riley's stay in Bowie, where he went 10-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 20 starts last season, could extend well beyond tomorrow's assignment. There are no immediate plans to rush him back to Rochester.

Farewell to Zwaska

Orioles head groundskeeper Paul Zwaska, the only man to hold the post since Camden Yards opened in 1992, will be honored before tomorrow's game as he is resigning to work for a Wisconsin-based firm that sells athletic and groundskeeping equipment.

"It was a childhood goal of mine to become a major-league groundskeeper. It's been another goal of mine to eventually be able to return to Wisconsin," said Zwaska, who was raised in Madison.

Zwaska retires after 16 seasons with the Orioles and 10 as head groundskeeper.

Al Capitos, the former Baysox groundskeeper and Orioles assistant since November, will succeed Zwaska.

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