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Ripken 'prepared' for free agency But lifelong Oriole would prefer to stay


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken, due in camp today, said in an interview published in Baseball Weekly that he's "prepared for the possibility" of becoming a free agent.

Ripken's contract expires at the end of this season. "For a long time," Ripken said, "I could never imagine playing anywhere except Baltimore, but a lot of things have happened that never seemed possible.

"I'm prepared for the possibility of being a free agent. If things indicate that I'm not wanted in Baltimore, I would definitely be prepared for the experience of being a free agent."

Ripken, 36, is the son of a longtime Orioles coach, Cal Ripken Sr., and has played his entire career with the Orioles.

"I don't like to think about leaving Baltimore," said Ripken. "I will always make my home in Baltimore and my obvious preference remains to play here the rest of my career. Staying with the Orioles would be a win-win situation for me.

"However, you can't force yourself on an organization. And you can't be 100 percent certain about what will happen. So I'm prepared for whatever decisions need to be made. Ideally, something could be done before the season starts and there's always the chance that it can happen. But if it doesn't occur by Opening Day, I am not going to talk about a contract until after the season."

Pitcher Mike Mussina, also eligible for free agency after this season, is planning to handle his negotiations in the same way, cutting off talks after April 1.

Ripken said: "I made the mistake five years ago of negotiating during a season. This time, I intend to keep my focus on the field once the season starts."

Ripken moves to third after nearly 15 seasons as the Orioles' everyday shortstop. He indicated the change is OK with him, although according to the report, Ripken considers the manner in which manager Davey Johnson handled the situation last summer "as a violation of trust," in the words of the writer.

Ripken said: "Let me say this, I have no problem with the move this season at all. At this stage of my career, it can even be viewed as a blessing because it provides me with a new challenge late in my career. I think it can be healthy for me as a player.

"I'll miss being in the middle of the infield, but by adding a player like Mike Bordick, we have made an overall improvement to the left side of our infield."

Phillips answers Angelos

Richie Phillips, head of the umpires union, issued a news release in response to Orioles owner Peter Angelos' statement that umpire John Hirschbeck should apologize for swearing at rTC Roberto Alomar and provoking the spitting incident last September.

"The outrageous and preposterous position of Peter Angelos, condoning the behavior of Roberto Alomar, reinforces the commonly held belief that if you have enough money and/or you are a good enough player, you can get away with anything," Phillips said.

"Angelos is certainly prolonging baseball's suffering over this incident. He should be dealt with severely by [AL president] Gene Budig and [acting commissioner] Bud Selig."

Angelos couldn't be reached to comment.

Absent Myers no worry

Reliever Randy Myers called and left a message with the team yesterday that he would arrive next Wednesday, 24 hours before the mandatory reporting date. Johnson said he worried about Myers showing up late last year, Johnson's first as manager of the Orioles. Not so this season.

"I know Randy," Johnson said, grinning. "I don't have any anxiety about that. He'll be here and then he'll take over and let us know what we're doing wrong."

Around the horn

The league has no intention of altering Hirschbeck's schedule as a result of the latest comments by Angelos and John Boggs, Alomar's marketing agent. Eric Davis and Jeffrey Hammonds arrived, but neither player worked out. Jerome Walton, signed as an extra outfielder, also reported and worked out. Kelly Gruber's been practicing in the outfield, as well. The biggest issue Johnson wants settled is which right-handed hitters will be productive, to balance out the Orioles' predominantly left-handed-hitting lineup. Davis, Ripken and Pete Incaviglia are the primary candidates. Left fielder B. J. Surhoff had knee surgery during the off-season, but Johnson said he is fully healed.

Spring break

What the Orioles did yesterday: Pitchers went through another bullpen workout, and some have begun throwing breaking balls for the first time. Matt Snyder, expected to pitch at Double-A Bowie this year, showed off a good fastball and a good curveball. "He wasn't really throwing his best one, either," said assistant GM Kevin Malone.

What they'll do today: Position players will go through their first full workout, after undergoing physicals in the morning. The hitters will have live batting practice against the pitchers.

You know it's spring training when: The media gather around Cal Ripken to hear him utter his first public words after a long winter away from the horde. Ripken is expected to talk with reporters today.

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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