There appears no doubt that Craig Worthington will start a rehabilitation assignment within a few days, but where he goes to regain his sharpness is another matter.
But Worthington, who must agree to the assignment, said yesterday he prefers the Class AA Hagerstown Suns or Class A Frederick Keys, the nearby choices, which are reached easily by driving.
He seems amenable to everything except the location.
"I need some at-bats," he said. "Fifteen days is an awful long time without any live pitching. I'd love to jump into the fire now, but if I came back too soon, I might risk being out again.
"If I have a choice, I'd rather go up the road to play for whichever team is home."
The Orioles are waiting for assurances that his groin-muscle injury is completely healed before sending him out.
"I'm really close right now," he said. "A couple more days should do it."
Worthington has been taking batting practice for a week. Once he enters a rehabilitation assignment, he cannot be away more than 20 days and can be activated any time before that.
A pain in the back
Second baseman Bill Ripken yesterday underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test of his lower back, and the news was good and bad.
"It showed a disk herniation," said Orioles trainer Richie Bancells. "There's not a whole lot of treatment we can give him other than to make him as comfortable as possible when it flares up."
The back has periodically bothered Ripken, especially when he plays on a hard surface (artificial turf) or is placed in an unusually stressful position.
Oates is giving Ripken a few days off, but will play him "as much as the pain will let him." Considering the Ripken family's pain tolerance level, that should be often.
Milligan slightly hurting
First baseman Randy Milligan will not have to go on the disabled list after suffering a mildly sprained left thumb while making a diving attempt to catch a single by Rance Mulliniks Thursday.
"I have to wear a brace to take the shock from the area," said TC Milligan, who was out of last night's starting lineup. "Basically, I have to wait until the swelling goes down."
Milligan said he hopes to begin hitting with the brace on by tomorrow.
"He's available," said Oates, "but it's better if he doesn't swing the bat right now. It's his bottom hand, so that's better than if it were the top hand."
To Whitt: Just another foe
Ernie Whitt may be heading for a Dwight Evans-type reception when he returns to Toronto as an opposing player for the first time next weekend.
"I don't know what to expect when I go there. Hopefully, everything will be positive. Next weekend is when something will happen, not here."
In Dunedin, Fla., spring training home of the Blue Jays, three months ago Whitt received two standing ovations, one when he was announced, the second when he homered for the Orioles.
"I'd like to play against them here," he said. "I've got a lot of close friends still on the team although they have some different faces.
"But on the field, they're just the opposing team now. As a professional, you do the best you can against anybody."
No surprise here
Gregg Olson rated his stuff "really good" when he saved Thursday night's game by striking out the side in the ninth inning.
"Some nights you have it for a while, but I had it all in that game," he said. "At the Metrodome I didn't really have it. I had to make tough pitches."
Olson again avoided any criticism of umpire Dale Ford, who was at the plate in Minneapolis when the pitcher disagreed with calls on several pitches to Kent Hrbek.
After leaving the mound with a loss, Olson made an obscene gesture into a television camera. He later apologized for the incident.
Anderson tests leg
Brady Anderson ran "at half speed" for the first time on his injured left leg yesterday.
"They found something clicking in there [knee] at Minneapolis," Oates said. "The only time it bothers him is when he's in the flex position, bending his knees."
"The [tender] hamstring is not the only thing wrong," Anderson said. "All I'm doing is trying to get better."
Oates said he will "ad lib" Anderson's recovery, depending on how the running goes.