Angelos backs decision by Hargrove on Ripken

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Manager: No set formula on when 40-year-old plays

April 26, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

DETROIT - Orioles manager Mike Hargrove yesterday reiterated his commitment to a lineup that will frequently exclude 40-year-old, All-Star third baseman Cal Ripken, while vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said "everybody" within the organization, including majority owner Peter Angelos, is behind the directional move.

Hargrove said he will decide whether to play Ripken or Mike Kinkade on a "series-to-series" basis but will not follow a set formula. Ripken and Kinkade have alternated starts the past week, with Ripken receiving last night's start against Detroit Tigers knuckleballer Steve Sparks.

"I think adhering to some strict policy wouldn't be fair to the club or to the team or to the players involved," said Hargrove.

Ripken added some intrigue to the mix in last night's fifth inning when he cranked his first homer of the season to give the Orioles a 5-0 lead. The home run was Ripken's first since last Sept. 30 against the New York Yankees' David Cone.

"What you're trying to achieve is to allow enough playing time for Mike Kinkade to find out if he can play at the big-league level and how much he can play," said Hargrove. "You also have to look at the welfare and well-being of the club, too."

Hargrove has dealt with other Hall of Fame players in the winters of their careers. He named Orioles first-base coach Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield, whom he managed with the Cleveland Indians. Such situations are never easy. "It's not fun," he said.

Kinkade was considered primarily a catcher when the Orioles acquired him from the New York Mets last July 28. He was also thought to be a more proficient outfielder than third baseman. However, Thrift was impressed by Team USA and Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who told him that Kinkade's defensive work during last October's Summer Olympics was "outstanding." Kinkade has made three of his six starts at third base, while his time behind the plate is affected by the presence of three other catchers - Brook Fordyce, Greg Myers and Fernando Lunar.

"Sometimes I'll still look around and think to myself, `I'm taking ground balls beside Cal Ripken. It's amazing. He's always been very helpful and very approachable," said Kinkade.

Mac is back

All but given up for dead within the starting rotation, No. 5 starter Chuck McElroy will receive at least one more start before returning to the bullpen. McElroy will start Saturday's game against the Minnesota Twins after a meeting between Thrift, Hargrove and pitching coach Mark Wiley produced agreement that the benefits of maintaining order outweighed promoting a starter from the minor leagues for a spot appearance.

The Orioles could have summoned Josh Towers or John Parrish from Rochester. But to do so would have meant optioning a pitcher such as Chad Paronto.

Ponson update

Sidney Ponson threw without discomfort for a second straight day yesterday, but Hargrove believes the injured starting pitcher will make a rehab start before coming off the disabled list next month. Ponson is sidelined with elbow tendinitis and is eligible to return May 1. His scheduled turn would come up May 3, when he would take the spot otherwise occupied by the team's No. 5 starter. However, Hargrove said it's more likely Ponson would first make a start at either Frederick or Bowie.

"I'd be real surprised if he was ready to pitch immediately after coming off," he said.

Hargrove insisted that the precautionary move does not suggest Ponson's condition is more serious than previously suggested. The club wants to ensure that his tendinitis is gone before sending him on a rehab.

"We're not going to send him out to see if he's healthy," said Hargrove. "We're going to send him out to make a start when he's healthy."

Around the horn

First baseman Jeff Conine received only his third start since suffering strained plantar fascia April 10 in Boston. Conine, one of several veterans bothered by injury and the sporadic at-bats that result, entered the game 5-for-28 with one home run. ... David Segui missed a second straight game because of swelling in his left hand. Segui was spiked while sliding into second base Sunday in Tampa Bay. ... Tuesday night's offensive breakout moved the Orioles ahead of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in runs, 74-70. It's the first time since Opening Day the Orioles haven't ranked last in the AL in runs.

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