Star game in Ripken thoughts

'Knock on wood,' he'd give 18th classic a shot

July 02, 2000|By ROCH KUBATKO | ROCH KUBATKO,SUN STAFF

Cal Ripken made his first appearance at Camden Yards last night since going on the disabled list Wednesday with inflammation in his lower back. The crowd erupted when his image appeared on the video screen, and he waved and gave a thumbs-up sign from the radio booth.

Though the Orioles' third baseman conceded he's still dealing with residual pain and doubts about when he'll be ready to play again, he left open the possibility of participating in the July 11 All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Ripken won't be eligible to come off the disabled list until the season resumes immediately after the break, but Major League Baseball would allow his inclusion if he's given permission by the club.

Manager Mike Hargrove has said he'll address that subject with Ripken, vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift and trainer Richie Bancells as the date approaches.

"First and foremost, my health and how I feel is the most important thing," Ripken said. "Sitting here two days after the [cortisone] shot and being in pretty good pain, I can't really consider that as an option.

"But I would imagine, knock on wood, in a week's time when I start to feel good and the pain is gone and I'm able to resume some sort of activity, take some batting practice and do some things, I don't think it would be that far out of the question if I was totally fine. And the only way I'd do that is if I was totally fine. It wouldn't be worth the risk otherwise."

If his body allows it, Ripken would be making his 18th straight appearance in the All-Star Game, including his 17th consecutive start. He would break Rod Carew's record for most times elected, another milestone to add to the plaque that one day will hang in Cooperstown.

"I've been very lucky to go to many, many of them," he said. "It's a great celebration for the game. To have gone to a number of thse, it's a special time. I'd much rather spend my time at the All-Star Game.

"This particular set of circumstances leaves me ... my decision or my attitude doesn't change, but the fact I'm hurting and need to do certain things might affect my ability to go there.

"But knock on wood, the healing process will go pretty quickly and I'll feel good. I'd love to be in a position where I could go, but right now I'm not thinking any further ahead than today."

Ripken is just as unsure about the source of his latest discomfort, which includes a burning sensation down his left leg.

"It could be a nerve fragment moved. It could be a new nerve fragment. It could be inflammation had grown to the point where something had to give. Who knows what it is? But it's the same problem I've been dealing with for a while," he said.

Ripken second-guessed himself for continuing to play after receiving his first injection on May 15 from Cleveland orthopedic surgeon Dr. Henry Bohlman, who performed surgery on Ripken's lower back last September. Ripken was in the lineup two nights later, going 1-for-4 with an RBI in an 8-7 loss in Anaheim. He started 15 straight games.

"In retrospect, who knows what would have happened if I had sat down after the first shot and spent time resting it and getting rid of the inflammation? Who knows if that had any negative effect by playing through it for six weeks? But that's the benefit of hind-sight," he said.

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