Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken missed tonight's game against the Montreal Expos and could be headed for a second stint on the disabled list this season with a deep bone bruise in his left wrist. Team officials said they'll probably wait until Monday before making a decision since X-rays of the area were inconclusive.
However, the Orioles are uncertain enough of Ripken's status that third baseman Ryan Minor was recalled from Class AAA Rochester and will be in the lineup against the Expos Saturday night.
In a flurry of other moves, backup catcher Lenny Webster was designated for assignment and pitcher Rocky Coppinger was traded to Milwaukee for a player to be named later. In a swap of relievers, Ricky Bones was activated from the disabled list and Gabe Molina sent back to Rochester.
None of the moves was surprising, but Minor's promotion indicates the Orioles believe Ripken could be out of action several days. Jeff Reboulet subbed tonight at third for Ripken and had a single in a 9-4 victory over Montreal.
"In talking to the doctors, Cal will probably be out three or four days," General Manager Frank Wren said. "This move gives us an everyday third baseman. If Cal comes back earlier than expected, Ryan can return to Rochester. If he has to go on the disabled list, Ryan will already be here playing."
Ripken was examined by three doctors today after being plunked by a fastball thrown by Mike Thurman in the second inning of Thursday's game. He wore an elastic bandage and plastic splint to keep the wrist immobilized, but declined to speculate on how long he might be sidelined.
"At this point, it's still pretty vague," Ripken said. "The tests and evaluations aren't very conclusive. Right now, they're calling it a deep bone bruise. Time will tell if it's something else. I'm to keep it immobilized for a day or two and see if it gets any better."
Early this season Ripken was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a back injury. Since returning, he has had one of the best stretches of his career, hitting .333 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and 36 RBI in 51 games.
After being hit by the pitch Thursday, Ripken stayed in the game long enough to score a run. When he returned to the dugout, Manager Ray Miller asked: "Are you all right?" Ripken responded: "I don't know."
"I ran around the bases and started to get the feeling back in it," he said. "I had trouble shaking hands when I came back in the dugout. I went back in the batting cage and tried to throw a ball. I thought that's what would give me the most trouble. But I had no trouble throwing. It's when I tried to swing a bat that I felt it.
"I don't have much swelling. It just seemed to hit the right spot. There are a lot of little bones in the area. It didn't feel good when it happened and it doesn't feel good today. But it could always get better rapidly. I've got to listen to the doctors. I don't like being patient, but it seems like the smart thing to do. They said to keep it immobilized. If there's some damage in there, I'm not making it any worse."
Miller will have 24 players available until Ripken gets better or is placed on the disabled list.
"We'll wait through the weekend," Wren said. "We'll just wait and see how it responds. Without conclusive X-rays, the only thing you can do on something like this is listen to the player and see how he feels."
For Webster, 34, today may have been the end of a 2 1/2-season run with the Orioles. He has been on the trading block for several weeks, but unable to find a trading partner, Wren designated him for assignment. If Wren can't trade Webster in the next 10 days, he can either become a free agent (if he clears waivers) or accept a demotion to the minor leagues. If he opts for free agency, he can strike a deal with any team, but would risk making less than the remainder of the $755,000 he's guaranteed by his current contract. Webster indicated he would try free agency if he's not traded.
Webster participated in the playoffs two years ago, and last season had career highs in home runs (10) and RBI (46) while sharing the position with Chris Hoiles.
He asked to be traded last winter after the Orioles acquired Gold Glove catcher Charles Johnson, but didn't become expendable until Mike Figga was claimed off waivers from the Yankees. In the end, the Orioles chose Figga over Webster because he's young and has better defensive skills. "It's a relief to finally know something," Webster said. "Frank has been great about it. He has kept me abreast of what he was trying to do and tried to give me his thinking all along. I was wondering how I'd react today. I think it was tougher being at home thinking about how I'd handle this, how I was going to say goodbye. The same core group of guys has been here the whole time I've been here, and they're like family to me. I think you just try to go on in a professional manner."
Webster cleaned out his locker this afternoon and was scheduled to return to his home in Atlanta. Given his choice, he said he would like to play for the Braves, who could be in the market for a catcher if Javy Lopez has knee surgery.
However, the Braves expressed little interest in Webster when Wren attempted to initiate trade discussions, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have lost Jason Kendall for the season, appear to be his best option.
"I just want to play," Webster said. "I just want a chance."
Coppinger, 25, was once one of the organization's brightest pitching prospects after winning 10 games in 1996. But injuries and poor performances have plagued him in recent seasons.
He has feuded with Miller the past two seasons, and in the end, both sides agreed it was best to allow him to continue his career elsewhere.
"It's a chance for me to turn the page," Coppinger said. "It's a different league, a different city, different people. I'm excited about it."
Likewise, Miller put his run-ins with Coppinger aside, saying: "I think a change will be good for Rocky. This will give him a chance to pitch someplace else, to get a fresh start. I wish him the best."