Attacks create unrest over winter


Decisions on where to play greatly affected by Sept. 11 terrorism


September 19, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- The Orioles' resumption of play last night one week after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 had not erased a very real issue for those younger players scheduled to begin play in any of several winter leagues after the major-league season.

While the decision to play in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Venezuela is ultimately left to a player, he is also influenced by his team's efforts to secure a spot on a roster. Players such as left-handed pitchers John Parrish and John Bale, outfielder Larry Bigbie, infielder Brian Roberts and right-handed reliever Kris Foster, are projected to leave the country next month -- several of them to play under Rochester manager Andy Etchebarren, who will lead the La Romana entry in the Dominican Winter League. The events of the past week have complicated an otherwise simple decision.

"You don't know what's going to happen," said Bale, recently married with a newborn. "It's not a stable situation right now. My wife and I have talked about it, and I don't want to be in a foreign country if we take action or if something else happens."

Foster, catcher Geronimo Gil, closer Willis Roberts, utility player Melvin Mora and outfielder Luis Matos also are scheduled to play internationally this winter. For all but Foster, winter ball also represents a homecoming. Many players are to report by Oct. 17, only 11 days after the Orioles conclude their season at home against the Boston Red Sox.

Bale, 27, has played the past three winters in Venezuela or the Arizona Fall League. Last winter's experience in Venezuela included him and a teammate being robbed with a shotgun pointed at his head. The current uncertainty coupled with his greater family responsibilities have left Bale leery.

"I can't tell you what I'm going to do right now," said Bale, mindful that he might also gain needed work by participating in the Florida Instructional League. "A week ago, I could have."

Bigbie, a bachelor, does not have Bale's responsibilities but does carry some of the same misgivings. "Part of me wants to go because at this point in my career I need to go play somewhere. But at the same time, you can't ignore what's going on. The decision becomes one's own."

Said Parrish, 23, whose role has evolved from starting to relief: "I couldn't help but think about it pretty quickly after I heard what happened [in New York and Washington]. There isn't a lot of time between the end of the season and when we're supposed to report. Some guys might like to wait and see what happens first. It's a tough one."

Richard on hold

Chris Richard is unlikely to appear in the outfield for the rest of this season as he continues to wait for his left shoulder to recover from what is at least acute tendinitis.

Richard said last night a magnetic resonance imaging taken last week revealed damage to the shoulder that might necessitate off-season surgery, but no decision has yet been made because doctors are unsure if the irregularities might be related to a torn rotator cuff Richards suffered in winter ball three years ago. Meanwhile, Richard's discomfort peaked on the club's previous road trip and has not diminished.

"We're going to give it a week without me picking up a ball," said Richard, who is unable to throw. "We'll see if there's any improvement then go from there. If it doesn't improve, I think we'll have to look at something for after the season."

Richard technically remains available as a designated or pinch hitter.

"It's at a point where it doesn't have a big effect on me hitting, but it's a situation where it could become more psychological," said Richard. "It might have nothing to do with the shoulder, but if I'm not hitting great, I might think about it."

Ripken 400 on track

After a week's break because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, NASCAR'S Winston Cup series will resume at Dover, Del., next week under tightened security with the MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400.

Officials at Dover Downs International Speedway said the track has a security plan that was designed with the help of the FBI and local police authorities, but security will be further enhanced for the race.

Ripken plans to attend the race as its grand marshal, his public relations firm and Dover Downs officials said yesterday. Ripken will wave the green flag, meet the drivers and take a lap before the start of the race.

For the first time, fans will not be allowed to bring coolers into the grandstands or even leave them at the gate to the grandstands.

Around the horn

Mike Hargrove hasn't announced his fourth and fifth starters in his modified rotation, but it is now believed that rookies Rick Bauer and Sean Douglass will start Friday and Saturday against the New York Yankees with last night's starter, Jason Johnson, returning for the series finale Sunday. Bale, who experienced elbow and forearm tightness before the schedule's interruption, will remain in the bullpen. Should his condition improve, he may receive a spot start before season's end. ... Players continue to discuss a collective donation to assist relief efforts in Washington and New York. ... Outfielder Mike Kinkade took batting practice and was considered available for the first time since suffering a shoulder and wrist injury while sliding during an Aug. 23 game against Tampa Bay. ... The Blue Jays will celebrate Ripken's farewell tonight by distributing Cal Ripken bobbleheads.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.