ARLINGTON, Texas - Cal Ripken's farewell tour made a poignant stop yesterday within his own clubhouse. In the most novel and perhaps most compelling gesture Ripken has received from any of the four organizations that have feted him, the Texas Rangers retired the Iron Man's locker inside the visitors' club house at The Ballpark in Arlington - an honor thought to be unprecedented in the game.
Rangers players Ivan Rodriguez, Alex Rodriguez and Ripken's former teammate, Rafael Palmeiro, attended along with Rangers general manager Doug Melvin and former Orioles and Rangers manager Johnny Oates.
"We wanted to do something a little bit different. The idea of retiring the locker in the visiting club house was what we have chosen." said Melvin, who hatched the idea after Ripken announced his retirement last month.
"I think the locker room is something special. When players retire, they always talk about missing the locker room and the clubhouse atmosphere."
The moment held plenty of black-and-orange ties. Melvin, in his sixth season as Rangers general manager, worked for nine years in the Orioles" organization, including terms as minor-league director and assistant general manager under Roland Hemond. Oates, dismissed earlier this season by the Rangers, managed Ripken for more starts during his record streak of 2,632 consecutive games than any other manager.
The three Rangers players tugged the reluctant Oates into a photo shoot. The players then unveiled a plaque above Ripken's locker, something the third baseman described as "a very cool thing." The Rangers presented Ripken with a No. 8 Texas jersey signed by the entire Rangers team.
The plaque's inscription reads:
"In recognition of more than 20 years of outstanding achievement, the Texas Rangers are proud to retire the locker of Cal Ripken Jr. in the visiting clubhouse at The Ball park in Arlington. This locker will forever recognize the intensity, passion and excellence that Cal Ripken brought to the game of baseball. Dedicated July 24, 2001."
Ripken's locker will become a centerpiece of ballpark tours. No other visiting player will use it after this season.
Ripken's farewell tour will continue in Anaheim when he participates in a parade at Disneyland on Friday. The Angels will then honor him before Sunday night's game.
Lunar ousts Fordyce
Manager Mike Hargrove admitted what has become increasingly obvious the past few weeks: rookie Fernando Lunar has unseated Brook Fordyce as starting catcher.
Batting .275 with 12 RBIs in 102 at-bats after going 0-for-4 last night, Lunar was again in the starting lineup against the Rangers, his 12th start this month. Fordyce has started seven games this month as his batting average has fallen to .196 after a 2-for-20 skid. Fordyce has three RBIs since May 12 and, according to Hargrove, has seen his offensive problems bleed into his defense.
Hargrove ackowledged: "I think we'll see Lunar get more playing time from here on the rest of the year. Offensively, he's made tremendous strides. There's still a lot of work to be done."
The move for now makes a part- time player of Fordyce, who signed a three-year, $7.7 million extension after last season.
"Offense has been the root cause of it all. He's struggled all year offensively." said Hargrove. "Brook's a good hitter. Certainly not a .200 hitter . But I think it's worn on him to the point that it's affected other parts of his game."
Bordick, Hentgen advance
Starting pitcher Pat Hentgen and shortstop Mike Bordick took significant steps yesterday in their return from the disabled list.
Hentgen, on the DL since May 17 due to a sprained ligament in his elbow, threw a two-inning simulated game that included 60 pitches. Bordick, on the DL since June 14 because of a Grade 2 shoulder separation, participated in the simulated game along with Mike Kinkade.
Barring a setback, both players believe they are on pace to begin rehab assignments within the next two weeks. Hentgen will throw a four-inning simulated game Sunday in Anaheim, then hopes to join Double-A Bowie.
Bordick continues to strengthen his arm and believes an even quicker timetable is possible. Confident in his ability to swing a bat, Bordick's final test is throwing from the hole behind shortstop and at different arm angles.
Hentgen, the Orioles' Opening Day starter, estimated he threw with "85, 90 percent' effort. Bordick insisted he could swing with maximum effort and without pain.
"This is a big step for me." Hentgen said. "I'm hoping to get the quality of my pitches back next."
Makeup ticket policy set
Tickets for the July 18 night game against the Rangers postponed because of the CSX train derailment will be honored for the July 30 makeup at Camden Yards.
Fans holding tickets for the July 19 postponement are entitled to exchange them for any game this season, though weekend games have limited availability.
Who's starting for O's?
The Orioles continue to make a mystery of today's first-game starting pitcher, though Hargrove did concede Calvin Maduro will make his first start of the season in the nightcap.
The Rangers announced they will give Justin Duchscherer his first major-league start in the opener followed by Doug Davis in the second game. The Orioles' possibilities include John Parrish, Rick Bauer and John Stephens. Bauer or Stephens would have to be added to the 40-man roster, necessitating a corresponding deletion. Given the composition of the bullpen, a move affecting recently signed John Wasdin is possible.