The Baltimore Orioles today placed Cal Ripken on the disabled list for the second time this season with nerve irritation in his back, placing on hold his quest to reach 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. Ripken's injury is the same malady that forced him on the disabled list in April, but this time the circumstances are far different.
Today's move was made after Ripken was examined by Orioles team orthopedist Michael Jacobs in Baltimore. Ripken, who was treated with a cortisone shot, was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sunday, when he was scratched from the lineup in Seattle.
"He's disappointed," said Orioles General Manager Frank Wren, who spoke to Ripken this morning after the examination. "And it's disappointing for us in a lot of factors. He's been one of our most productive hitters in the lineup over this last stretch. And he's Cal Ripken. You don't have to say much more than that."
Third baseman Ryan Minor was recalled from Class AAA Rochester, and joined the Orioles tonight in Oakland. He entered in the eighth inning of a 12-2 loss, and grounded out with the bases loaded to end the game.
Ripken, who played in a record 2,632 consecutive games, went on the disabled list for the first time in his 19-year career on April 18. His .179 batting average at the time fueled speculation that Ripken might retire.
This time, however, Ripken was riding one of the best offensive stretches of his career. He has hit .352 with 15 homers and 43 RBI in 61 games since coming off the disabled list May 13, and he hit .413 during July.
He is one home run shy of 400, and 32 hits shy of 3,000. Only six other players in baseball history have reached both career milestones.
Although Ripken will be eligible to come off the disabled list on Aug. 16, which would give him about six weeks in which to collect the two milestones, Wren said that is "probably pushing it." Ripken is to have "limited activity" for the next 10 days.
"The chance exists" for an on-time return, Wren said. "You're dealing with the unknown of how quickly his back responds" to treatment.
The Orioles filled in for Ripken on Monday by moving left fielder B.J. Surhoff to third base, where he last played regularly in 1996. Surhoff started at third again tonight. But with Ripken now out for an extended period, the club called on Minor.
Minor played in four games last month when Ripken was out of the lineup with a bruised wrist. But he struggled at the plate, going for 1 for 10 with four strikeouts.
Minor "has swung the bat well" at Rochester lately, Wren said. "This is a situation where we'll get a little longer look at him this time."
As recently as Saturday in Seattle, Manager Ray Miller remarked that Ripken appeared to be one of the "freshest" players on the team. But with no warning, his back suddenly stiffened up Sunday, and Miller had to scratch him from the lineup.
According to Miller, Ripken's back seemed fine Sunday evening, but stiffened up again considerably during breakfast Monday morning. Ripken immediately began making preparations to return to Baltimore. Ripken also may go to Cleveland to consult with Henry Bohlman, who treated Ripken with a cortisone shot in April.
Orioles Note: Center fielder Brady Anderson was in tonight's lineup despite Miller's admission that Anderson "is not moving real good out there" because of a sprained ankle. Anderson missed the past four games and appeared slower in his return Monday night.
Because of a roster shortage, Miller can't afford to rest Anderson. "I don't think he's 100 percent," Miller said. "I definitely need his bat in the lineup. But if he has limited range, that can be a factor."