It's official: No All-Star Game for Ripken

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Return date uncertain as nerve pain persists

CT scan result unknown

July 10, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken will neither play nor participate in tomorrow's All-Star Game in Atlanta, team officials confirmed yesterday, and it appears likely that Ripken will need at least an extended absence before returning from the nerve inflammation that landed him on the disabled list for the third time in two seasons June 28.

Manager Mike Hargrove spoke with Ripken last week and said the third baseman has experienced improvement in a condition that has prevented him from sleeping well - sending a burning sensation down his left leg. "I think it's a process," Hargrove said. "He doesn't want to jeopardize [his recovery] by doing something prematurely."

Hargrove chose not to speculate on when Ripken might return. Club sources concede the condition might be more serious than first conveyed.

"When he feels he's able to [return], he will," said Hargrove. "It could come sooner or later. I think this is a real fluid decision."

Ripken said he hoped to feel significant improvement "10 to 14 days" after receiving a cortisone injection from Cleveland orthopedist Dr. Henry Bohlman on June 28. Ripken underwent a three-dimensional CT scan at Johns Hopkins on Friday.

The infielder could not be reached for comment yesterday and calls to a representative of his marketing firm, Tufton Group, were not returned.

Yesterday's announcement by the club that Ripken does not plan to dress for the game, participate in pre-game ceremonies or even make an appearance in Atlanta raised questions about the severity of his condition.

Club officials have refused to elaborate on the results of Ripken's CT exam. They have stated that there is little if any treatment available to alleviate the symptoms. The player is taking a modified series of anti-inflammatory medications and following through on prescribed rest.

Should he require follow-up surgery, his career will be over, according to a club source. It is unknown whether last month's aggravation of the condition makes such surgery necessary for him to enjoy freedom from pain in everyday activities, baseball-related activities or neither.

High on Matos

Perhaps on the cusp of committing to a younger lineup, the Orioles remain impressed by the development of 21-year-old rookie outfielder Luis Matos, who has assumed Rich Amaral's role of fourth outfielder. Matos' term with the Orioles began with an 0-for-15 skid that included several hard-hit outs. He is since 4-for-8 with four walks.

Matos received only 11 games at Triple-A Rochester before being demoted to Bowie on April 27. At the time of his June 19 promotion, many were surprised that the club bypassed veteran non-roster player Wayne Kirby. However, Matos has since made clear his potential.

"When he first came up, he wasn't too particular about what he swung at," said hitting coach Terry Crowley. "But you work with him and watch him, and he's become more selective. He's less nervous about being here. And one thing you can be sure of: whenever he's penciled in the lineup, he's going to give you a good defensive effort. He's going to grow as a player. You know that."

Around the horn

Hargrove said he has readjusted his starting rotation for the post-All-Star schedule. Scott Erickson will start the third game following the break after Hargrove initially had projected Pat Rapp for the role. Mike Mussina and Sidney Ponson will start the first two games against the Atlanta Braves.

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