With the Baltimore Orioles hoping to mount a turnaround for the ages in the second half, it would help if they could turn to the ageless. Cal Ripken will be evaluated again Monday to see if he is ready to return from the deep bone bruise in his wrist that has sidelined him since he was hit by a pitch Thursday.

Manager Ray Miller said he expects Ripken back soon. Ripken being Ripken, the third baseman would have liked soon to have happened by now. In the dugout Saturday night, Miller spotted Ripken without his protective brace on his wrist.

"Where's the thing?" Miller asked.

"I'm healed," Ripken said.

He wasn't healed, but Ripken took fielding practice smoothly. Although he isn't quite ready to bat, it appears he will avoid going on the disabled list for the second time this season -- and second time in his career.

"We'll just have to see," Miller said. "He'll come back as soon as he's ready to hit. Three days is all he needs to heal. He's the most durable guy I've ever seen."

Bullpen Workers

Miller said that while the Orioles' bullpen has struggled, he at least feels it is well-rested.

"You see guys with 47, 48 games pitched," he said. "For the teams that have had their bullpen carry them to this point, it gets a little touchy."

Miller may not have meant it, but he was describing his team's current opponent. The Mets are in contention largely because of their National League-leading 31 saves. Relievers Turk Wendell and Armando Benitez were 1-2 in the league in appearances, with 48 and 46, respectively, entering tonight.


The end of David Cone's perfect game against the Montreal Expos was on television in both clubhouses before the game here.

Mets reliever John Franco recounted it admiringly for a friend, and Miller tipped his cap to the Yankees ace. "Last year, the first four times he started against us, I thought he was through," Miller said. "He's a competitor. There's nothing freaky about a perfect game. You have to be awesome." . . .

Carla Overbeck, captain of the U.S. soccer team that won the Women's World Cup, threw out the first pitch. She got a standing ovation, then kicked a few soccer balls into the stands.