Playing time cut, Ripken is All-Star still in voters' eyes


His lead at third base slimmer than past years

Hentgen exam due today

May 30, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Early precincts have reported and this year's All-Star balloting shows Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken in a tight race to earn his 19th consecutive selection.

Ripken has received 98,130 votes to lead the Anaheim Angels' Troy Glaus, who has so far received 80,678 votes. New York Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius is third with 61,909 votes. No other Oriole ranked in the top five.

"I've always enjoyed everything about the All-Star Game," Ripken said before last night's series opener against the Seattle Mariners. "When you get there, you're in the same clubhouse as guys you play against and respect from afar the rest of the year. It's a great honor and something I've always looked forward to."

Ripken was selected by fans last summer but could not attend the game in Atlanta because of a back condition that forced him to the disabled list in late June.

Typically, early returns have suggested a landslide for Ripken, who has a .255 average in 47 All-Star at-bats. However, yesterday's tabulation had Ripken's 17,000- vote lead as the smallest at any position. Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez holds a slim 1,041-vote lead over Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, but they and Cleveland outfielder Juan Gonzalez have almost double Kenny Lofton's fourth-place total.

Glaus, last year's AL home run leader, has not been as productive as in 2000 while Ripken remains one of the game's most popular players despite an erosion in playing time. Ripken said he was unaware of the balloting until approached by reporters. "I'm really not concerning myself beyond the things that are day to day," Ripken said. "You go out there and see what develops."

An interesting situation would develop were Ripken not to be selected by fans. New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and Major League Baseball representatives would then have to decide whether to choose Ripken or another player to represent the Orioles on the AL's 30-man roster.

Potentially in the final season of his Hall of Fame career, Ripken entered last night's game batting .222 with two home runs and 17 RBIs. Manager Mike Hargrove has cut Ripken's playing time in keeping with the team's transition. Jeff Conine (.327, 28 RBIs before last night) has fewer at-bats than Ripken; Chris Richard (.273) was the only everyday player to be hitting above .270. Mike Trombley (2-1, 1.99 ERA) has become the de facto closer but has only four saves.

Hentgen sees Andrews today

Orioles' Opening Day pitcher Pat Hentgen will be examined today by orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. The club hopes to receive confirmation of an initial finding that Hentgen is suffering from nothing more serious than a strained flexor tendon in his right elbow and won't be lost beyond Sunday's scratched start against the Oakland Athletics.

Hentgen already has received a cortisone injection to the elbow and underwent a magnetic resonance imaging last week. The Orioles initially thought skipping one turn would allow Hentgen to recover from what was first described as tendinitis.

Andrews supervised Hentgen's treatment in 1992 when he suffered a season-ending problem to the elbow. The current condition causes Hentgen pain whenever he attempts to throw a curveball. Twice last week he curtailed side sessions.

Kinkade still glowing

Two days after receiving his Olympic ring, Mike Kinkade still admitted to a sense of awe. Sunday's presentation by Hargrove capped a week in which Kinkade hit his first home run at Camden Yards and was able to attend the birth of his second child, Konnor.

"It was an awesome thing," Kinkade said of Sunday's ceremony. "It brought back a lot. Thinking about the whole experience in Sydney still give me chills. I've talked to other guys on the team and they feel the same way. It's truly a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

The Orioles were in Minnesota the day after Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz received his ring, leaving Kinkade to experience a vicarious thrill. The Orioles accepted shipment of Kinkade's ring but postponed the ceremony in an unsuccessful attempt to bring in an undisclosed celebrity to make the presentation.

Around the horn

Numerous Orioles made their first trip to Safeco Field last night. Kinkade, Richard, Melvin Mora, Jay Gibbons, Fernando Lunar, Chad Paronto, Willis Roberts, Josh Towers and Ryan Kohlmeier weren't with the club when it came through last summer. The stadium is in its second season. ... Brady Anderson carried a five-game hitting streak into last night's game. He was 5-for-17 over the stretch. ... Kohlmeier has yet to receive an inherited runner in 18 appearances. As closer, he always began the ninth inning. Though given only one save situation since May 1, he continues to be an inning-starter. ... Before last night, the Orioles had struck out fewer times (289) than any other AL team. Only Cleveland has a better walk-strikeout ratio.

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