Recovering Ripken closes in on return

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

No physical setbacks yet for third baseman

Nussbeck to see doctor

March 11, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Restricted mostly to light throwing and running, third baseman Cal Ripken is nearing his first swings of spring training and a possible return to the Orioles' lineup.

Ripken hasn't taken part in full baseball-related activities because of a fractured rib on his right side, an injury that occurred before position players reported to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Asked about the projection that Ripken remains about a week away, manager Mike Hargrove said, "It may be shorter than a week to 10 days. We may know something within the next one to three days, as far as where he's at.

"Again, you hate to put time limits on it for the simple reason that it's absolutely going by how he feels. Monday will have been four weeks. They said two to four weeks."

Ripken hasn't indicated that he's experienced any setbacks in his recovery from the injury. He's been careful not to aggravate it by reaching for balls and torquing his body.

The Orioles have been waiting for Ripken to reach the point where he informs trainer Richie Bancells that he's ready to take the next step toward his 21st season.

"There will come a time when he's going to go to Richie and say, `I feel pretty good,' and have the doctor check him out, and from whatever the doctor says, he'll proceed to the activities he can do, like swinging a bat. And the comfort or discomfort will dictate how much he can do," Hargrove said.

Jose Leon and Ivanon Coffie played third base yesterday. Jeff Conine and Mike Kinkade also have been busy there in Ripken's absence.

Nussbeck on hold

Unsatisfied with Mark Nuss- beck's progression from a shoulder ailment, the Orioles will have him examined within the next few days by orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

The Orioles list Nussbeck as having tendinitis in his right shoulder, causing him to be shut down since the first week of spring training. He still hasn't been given clearance to throw, leading to concerns that the problem is more serious.

When asked about his condition last week, Nussbeck referred any questions to the training staff, which normally won't discuss specific injuries.

"We're trying to see what's really the situation," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations. "We'll probably know by, I'd think, the 12th [Monday]."

Nussbeck was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Mike Timlin trade. He was diagnosed with tendinitis, which forced him on the disabled list and limited him to four games at Triple-A Rochester. The discomfort remained while throwing in Baltimore two months ago, and has removed him from the field this spring. He's had two MRIs since January, including one after he arrived in camp, but the results aren't being released.

The Orioles already have lost two pitchers obtained in the waiver-deadline trades to season-ending surgeries. Pat Gorman had ligament-transplant surgery shortly after last season, and Luis Rivera had a torn labrum repaired by Andrews on Tuesday.

Pain, then gain

Third base was a dangerous area for the Orioles during pre-game drills.

Leon, who started yesterday's game, was hit in the groin area while fielding ground balls. He collapsed in the grass outside the foul line, where assistant trainer Brian Ebel rushed to his aid. Leon, acquired from St. Louis last July for Will Clark, went to the clubhouse before returning to take batting practice.

Not only did he remain in the lineup, he caught a screaming liner from Alex Rodriguez in the first and doubled to right in the second. He also committed an error in the fourth.

After Leon's mishap, Coffie took a shot off his leg on another hard bouncer but didn't require treatment.

Stadium problems

A 15-foot portion of the short metal fence in front of the Charlotte County Stadium stands beside the Rangers dugout collapsed before the game, causing about 20 fans to tumble three to four feet onto the field. Most of the group, which had been pressed against the structure while trying to get autographs of the Rangers' $252 million man Rodriguez, consisted of young children. Nobody was injured.

Et cetera

THE NUMBER: 16 - Players the Orioles brought to Port Charlotte yesterday who wore uniform numbers 60 and higher. Texas regulars vs. the "B" squad made for a predictable outcome.

INJURY UPDATE: Outfielder Luis Matos will have surgery Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala., to tighten his left shoulder capsule, which the Orioles hope will prevent further dislocations. Andrews, whose phone number must be on the Orioles' speed-dial, will perform the surgery.

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