As the Baltimore Orioles begin to look toward next season, they will use the next two weeks or so to tell them where third-base prospect Ryan Minor stands, and hope he appears as major league-ready as second baseman Jerry Hairston did during a similar look earlier this season.

Minor, 25, was called up when Cal Ripken went on the disabled list with a back injury Tuesday. And with Ripken's long-term prognosis unclear, Minor's performance during this call-up might be crucial in helping solve the third-base question next spring.

"This time is for himself, to get his feet on the ground and to feel like he can compete here," said Manager Ray Miller. "Regardless of whether he's here at the start of next year, he just needs to know he can play here. It's just like Hairston. No matter when he comes back, Hairston left here knowing he could compete at this level."

Minor struggled at the plate during a four-game call-up in July, going 1 for 10 with four strikeouts. Although Miller said Minor was not evaluated based on those four games, the Orioles sent Minor back to Class AAA Rochester with a handful of tips from hitting coach Terry Crowley.

"I challenged him to stay with what Crow had given him," Miller said. "I see a big change in him, because he's able to cover the ball more. Two of the four hits he has have been to right field because he's swinging down at the ball, whereas the first time he came up everything was uppercut. If it wasn't on the inside half, he was in trouble."

Miller on Murray

Miller applauded bench coach Eddie Murray's decision to manage in the Arizona Fall League after the season, the first step toward a possible managerial career. "Most superstars don't relate to people very well because [the game] was easy for them, and they think it should be easy for everybody else," Miller said. "Eddie's a good teacher, but he's trying to teach at the top level, instead of working with younger guys. . . . Eddie's biggest problems will be talking to the umpires and dealing with the press." . . . Reliever Mike Fetters, on the 60-day disabled list with a strained right elbow, threw for the first time today since his surgery. Fetters threw 30 pitches with no difficulty near his home in Phoenix, and will return to Baltimore on Saturday to begin a rehabilitation program.