Ripken takes turn for the better on road to recovery


Third baseman expects to face live pitching in the next day or two


March 18, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Though still hesitant to make projections on his return from a fractured rib, Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken said yesterday he expects to face live pitching within the next day or two.

Ripken spent part of yesterday's workout with hitting coach Terry Crowley in the outdoor cage beside one of the back fields. He hit off a tee and swung at soft tosses from Crowley, this time moving back 45 to 50 feet, increasing his bat speed and repetitions and gauging how his body responds the next day.

"I'm adding more stuff on," he said. "Today I'm getting closer to simulating what I normally do with Crow during the season. And I suspect and I'm hopeful that in the next one or two days I'll be taking regular batting practice. It's a matter of escalating it from there."

Ripken already had completed his most advanced drill yesterday, charging balls being rolled to him by strength and conditioning coach Tim Bishop and firing throws to a protective screen at first base.

"So far I haven't had any problems whatsoever," he said. "Throwing from that angle, you're kind of stretching your rib. I thought that might cause some discomfort, but there was absolutely none. I could go ahead through the whole drill and not worry about it.

"When you first come back you're a little bit tentative, thinking there might be some feeling, but so far there hasn't been any. You'd like to get to the point where you can take your normal swings and not worry. That's what I'm working toward."

Ripken expects to be in the Orioles' lineup by this time next week, giving him the chance to accumulate enough at-bats heading into the April 2 opener against Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez.

"At this stage, I think there's a pretty good chance," he said. "I want to leave it open-ended, but certainly I remain optimistic that I'll be playing in a game."

Manager Mike Hargrove indicated before Friday's game that Ripken had been told to back off slightly and maintain a more conservative pace, rather than pushing himself too much and jeopardizing his availability later this spring.

"That refers to my desire to want to accelerate things," Ripken said. "In the bigger picture, you don't want to do anything too fast that would affect the first month or two months of the season. Granted, your goal is Opening Day and I intend to make that goal, but at the same time, taking three or four extra days might be smart in the long run.

"The only way you find that out is if you add a little bit on and you test it. The logic is, after you've been off for four weeks, you don't want to come back and swing 100 percent your first day back. Maybe you go 20, 25 percent, then you add to 50 percent, then to 60, 70.

"The big dilemma is when do you add it to 100? My mentality is to take it from 50 to 100 and throw caution to the wind and say, `Let's find out about it.' Most of my career that's worked pretty well, but the last couple, dealing with injuries, I've learned a little bit about it."

Segui update

Hargrove doesn't expect first baseman David Segui to resume playing before Wednesday while the player recovers from a strained right hamstring.

Segui aggravated the injury during Monday night's game against the Florida Marlins and was removed after three innings. He's missed five straight games, with more idle time forthcoming.

"It feels pretty good today. It was a bad day yesterday," Hargrove said. "I'd be surprised if it's before the middle of the week, at the very least. I think we're looking at midweek at the earliest."

Segui strained the hamstring when his foot slipped in the infield dirt during a drill. He felt it again during the first inning of Monday's game as he stepped away from first base, and came out when unable to run hard on a double-play ball.

Spurgeon throws well

The Orioles' split-squad lost to the New York Mets, 3-1, in Port St. Lucie despite a dominating effort from Jay Spurgeon.

Hurt in previous outings by a glitch in his mechanics, Spurgeon limited the Mets to one hit in four shutout innings. He had allowed six runs and nine hits in his four previous innings, and opponents were batting .474 against him.

Looking at his baseball cards from last season, Spurgeon noticed that he needed to raise his front arm. The result was his best outing of the spring.

Left-hander John Parrish wasn't as fortunate, allowing a three-run homer to Robin Ventura and absorbing the loss.

The Orioles' run came on a homer by Melvin Mora, his second this spring.

Around the horn

THE NUMBER: 4 - Stolen bases for infielder Brian Roberts, which leads the club. Two came yesterday in the first two innings. He led the NCAA with 67 in 1999.

INJURY REPORT: Infielder Steve Sisco continues to receive ice and electrical stimulation treatments for a pulled oblique muscle on his left side. He's been shut down indefinitely. ... Chris Richard returned to the lineup yesterday after sitting out Friday's game with stiffness in his legs.

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