Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken, on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season, said today that he is optimistic his lower back will improve but that surgery is an option if nerve irritation persists.

"Right now, I'm going to look at it optimistically," Ripken said in the clubhouse while his teammates took batting practice prior to tonight's game. "The nerves are a little inflamed. The medication is going to help it and within a 10-day period I'll be able to get back to what I'm supposed to be doing. If for whatever reason that timetable is adjusted, I'll have to adjust my thinking. . . .

"Obviously, if surgery was the magical answer, then it would present itself. If it continues to reoccur, then you have to look seriously at ways to prevent it from reoccuring. And surgery seems to be an option there. I'm not convinced that's [the answer] at this point. It becomes an option if I'm not able to go out and play and keep the nerve from being inflamed."

Before he was injured, Ripken had been on one of the hottest stretches of his career, raising his batting average to .335 with 399 career home runs and 2,968 career hits. Ripken remembered sitting at a table in a Seattle restaurant on Sunday morning when he began to feel spasms in his back muscles. He returned to Baltimore on Monday and was examined by team orthopedist Michael Jacobs on Tuesday.

Ripken received a cortisone shot Tuesday and is taking anti-inflammatory medicine. Ripken, who endured a spasm while speaking to reporters today, said the pain was not as sharp or consistent as when a similar injury sent him to the disabled list for the first time in his career, from April 20 to May 13.

"The condition of the back, I was lucky enough to pound it and hit it all these years," said Ripken, who noted that putting on his shoes and tying his shoelaces was less painful today than it was on Wednesday. "Maybe what you are seeing now is the accumulation of pounding. . . . To have this occur at this point is very frustrating."

Murray to Manage in Fall

Orioles bench coach Eddie Murray was named manager today of the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League, which begins in October. It will be his first managing assignment. . . . Despite a rocky outing that lasted 2 2/3 innings in his first start since 1997, an eventual 12-2 loss to Oakland on Tuesday, right-hander Ricky Bones will start Sunday's game against the Detroit Tigers, Manager Ray Miller said. . . .

Miller said team officials consider tonight's start an important one for Class AA left-hander Matt Riley, the organization's top pitching prospect. Because Riley lost velocity off his fastball in his most recent start for the Bowie Baysox, Orioles officials want to make certain he is at full strength if they decide to promote him to the majors.