Orioles ace Mike Mussina said today his bruised right shoulder is improving, but that he will miss a second start Wednesday in Baltimore. Left-hander Doug Johns will start again in Mussina's place.

"I hope coming off a day off [Monday] and doing nothing, it will be improved," Mussina said. "But at this point in the season, it's not worth risking something long-term by pushing it."

Mussina was struck on the shoulder by a line drive on Aug. 22. Although he has played catch in the outfield, he has yet to throw off a mound. By missing another start, his chances of reaching the 20-win plateau for the first time in his career appear remote. He has a 15-7 record, but likely will get only five or six more starts.

Ripken's Return Imminent

Third baseman Cal Ripken, on the disabled list with a back injury, took two impressive shifts in batting practice today and ranged far to his backhand side while fielding grounders, increasing the chance he might return to the lineup during this week's homestand.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he came in one day and said, `Okay, let's go,' " said Manager Ray Miller. . . .

Outfielder Eugene Kingsale, who was called up from Class AAA Rochester today and collected his first major league hit, is a key part of the Orioles' transition.

Kingsale will be out of minor league options after this season, and the Orioles hope to find out in the next month whether he belongs in the major leagues, either in Baltimore or somewhere else via trade.

"It behooves you in the next month to find out what he's got," Miller said.

The extent to which the Orioles deem Kingsale ready by next Opening Day has far-reaching ramifications for the team's direction.

If Kingsale is ready, he likely would play center field, allowing the Orioles to accomplish their long-stated goal of moving Brady Anderson to left. . . .

Jason Johnson, the Orioles' winning pitcher today, said he has one remaining goal this season: "I'd like to throw a complete game," he said. Johnson has not pitched past the seventh this season. . . .

Albert Belle's four doubles today tied the club record set by Charlie Lau on July 13, 1962, and equaled by Dave Duncan on June 30, 1975. . . .

The Tigers will move into brand-new Comerica Stadium next season, and big crowds, like today's 37,911, are packing Tiger Stadium for its final days. But a cramped clubhouse and an uneven infield are two of the reasons the Orioles are not waxing nostalgic about their final visit here.

"I'm definitely ready to see a new stadium here," said pitcher Scott Erickson. "I wasn't here to see Ty Cobb play. [The emotions] are not quite the same for some people as others."