TORONTO -- Believe it or not, it won't be long until Cal Ripken's contract runs out.
Ripken is eligible to become a free agent after next season. He signed a five-year, $32 million deal toward the end of the 1992 season, one of Ripken's worst statistically, one year after Ripken won his second MVP award.
"We learned our lesson the last time around," said Ron Shapiro, Ripken's agent, "and we don't negotiate during the season. Any contract discussions take place in the off-season. It's always better in the off-season."
However, Shapiro said he would prefer to deal with the contract situation this winter, rather than wait until after the 1997 season.
"It will be very, very important to see something done in the off-season," Shapiro said. "But right now, with this club in the middle of a wild-card race, we don't even want to think about it."
General manager Pat Gillick said earlier this week that signing Ripken will be a priority, which is fine with the shortstop.
"I welcome any kind of talks toward that direction," Ripken said. "Obviously I'm for that. But at this stage of the season it's honestly the last thing on my mind.
"I've made no secret about wanting to remain an Oriole. It's realistic to know it doesn't always happen. It's a rarity.
"I've been an Oriole from the very beginning and I'd like to be an Oriole the whole time. I'm open to any kind of talks to make sure that happens."
Rhodes throws without pain
Disabled reliever Arthur Rhodes threw for about 10 minutes yesterday without pain, and could be activated today.
Rhodes threw off a mound for the first time in several weeks and said he felt good afterward. Rhodes has been on the DL since Aug. 6 with inflammation in the top of his pitching shoulder.
Yesterday he threw at about 75 percent, with a velocity in the low 80s. If Rhodes is pain-free today, then he would throw again tomorrow at full speed and likely would be limited to facing one or two batters an outing in the playoffs.
Rhodes said he threw his fastball and changeup well and pitching coach Pat Dobson said he was impressed by the last pitch Rhodes threw, when he tried to pop the mitt with more intensity.
"I want to pitch really bad," Rhodes said. "I want to be out there with the rest of the guys. But when I'm out there I want to be strong. Right now, I feel like I did before I got hurt."
Rhodes began the year 8-0, but since the All-Star break he has done more sitting than pitching. But manager Davey Johnson hopes he can neutralize some big left-handed bats in the postseason.
Mills feeling better, too
Alan Mills also could return to action shortly.
Mills has not pitched since re-aggravating a pulled right groin Monday, but yesterday Mills said he noticed more improvement. "It's even better today than yesterday," Mills said. "I'm supposed to throw, so we'll see after that."
Mills joined the Orioles in some pre-game workouts yesterday for the first time since Monday, and Johnson said Mills will try throwing off a mound today.
Johnson hopes Mills can be successful pitching with the injured area wrapped up. Mills did that before Monday, and was very effective.
"What you don't want to do is run him out there and have him miss the next three [games]," Johnson said. "I'm hopeful he can start playing catch [today]. It's his right groin. That's a very pivotal part of your anatomy if you're a pitcher, when you've got to push off."
Glendening tied to team
In Annapolis, Orioles pennant fever has overtaken Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Maryland's wild and wacky chief executive, who is now wearing baseball ties exclusively.
Since Saturday, Glendening has abandoned his ho-hum regimental stripe ties -- you know, the red ones with the blue and white diagonals -- until the Orioles win the World Series or the season ends, whichever comes first.
For the duration, he's wearing ties with some sort of baseball theme -- bats, balls, the Orioles' logo -- "as a statement of support for my team," he said yesterday.
Kudos for clubhouse
Johnson said the Orioles' clubhouse atmosphere is to his liking.
Players are arriving extra early to take additional batting and fielding practice. Others arrive early just to hang out and play cards with their teammates.
"Guys are getting here early, guys are working out every day," Johnson said. "You need to be relaxed. You can't have any paranoia in the clubhouse. You don't want to be burned out."
Around the horn
If the Orioles qualify for the playoffs, ESPN will broadcast the first two games from Camden Yards, next Tuesday and Wednesday. Johnson said he does not want to use Rocky Coppinger, last night's starter, in an emergency relief role this weekend. "You've got a 22-year-old kid pitching on three days' rest with a tender forearm, and we're not going to run him out there on one day's rest," Johnson said. Johnson gave starter David Wells a hint to shave his goatee by placing shaving cream and a razor on the stool in front of Wells' locker. Wells took the can of shaving cream and threw it across the room. The loss ended Toronto's three-game winning streak. The Blue Jays have won only six of its last 23 games at SkyDome. The Orioles now have 253 home runs this season, including 93 since July 30.
Pub Date: 9/27/96