FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- First baseman Rafael Palmeiro spent the winter trying to improve his upper body strength, even though he hit 39 home runs last year and led the Orioles with 142 RBIs.
"I want to be able to maintain my strength," Palmeiro said. "I hit three balls to the warning track during the playoffs against the Yankees last year. If I had been a little stronger, that would have been a total of seven more runs for us and the outcome might have been different."
No one is complaining about Palmeiro's performance. He has been the Orioles' steadiest run producer since the day he first walked into camp three years ago. But he still wants to do more.
"I hit too many balls to the wall last year," Palmeiro said. "I did some things, but I didn't do enough. Everybody has to take responsibility for their share."
No news on Ripken front
Baltimore attorneys Ron Shapiro and Michael Maas visited training camp yesterday and met with club officials for two hours, but neither side reported significant progress in negotiations toward a contract extension for third baseman Cal Ripken.
General manager Pat Gillick said that "many aspects" of the proposed extension were discussed but indicated that there had been no significant change in the position of either side.
The Orioles have offered a two-year extension with an option for a third year at an annual salary of $6.2 million, the same salary that Ripken will earn in the last year of his present contract. Ripken is looking for a three-year guaranteed deal worth about $7 million a year.
The economic gap is not that large, but the talks have hung up over the length of the guarantee. Both sides agree that they likely will suspend negotiations if an agreement is not reached by Opening Day, but that appears to give them plenty of time to work something out.
Shapiro said yesterday that client Kirby Puckett's efforts to encourage players to be tested for glaucoma have resulted in an arrangement to provide glaucoma screening for all players who visit New York with their teams.
"The glaucoma foundation will provide testing for all ballplayers who visit New York," Shapiro said, "and every player will get a letter from Kirby encouraging them to take part."
Puckett was forced to retire from baseball because he lost sight in one eye because of damage caused by an undiagnosed case of glaucoma.
The Orioles said that they have come to terms with seven players: right-handers Archie Corbin, Julio Moreno and Francisco Saneaux, left-hander Rick Krivda, outfielder Wady Almonte and infielders Scott McClain and Juan Bautista. That means that 31 players on the 40-man roster have been signed for this season.
Yesterday's last official workout before today's first intrasquad game was pretty routine. Or, as manager Davey Johnson put it, "A lot of side work, nothing special."
"The guys are in pretty good shape. There's not a whole lot of [complaining] going on, which is a good sign. I think everybody's ready to start playing," he said.
"Everybody looks good. Any time you have this many guys in camp, pitchers and everyday players, there's going to be more competition. Guys are not going to be coming in out of shape, they're not going to be coming in and not giving a good effort."
Today's intrasquad game is scheduled to go nine innings. "We've got plenty of pitching," Johnson said.
Mike Mussina will start for Team A and throw two innings, followed by Krivda (two), Jimmy Haynes (two), Moreno (two) and Saneaux (one). Shawn Boskie, trying to win the job as the No. 5 starter, will pitch two innings for Team B, followed by Brian Williams (two), Rule 5 draft choice Tom Davey (two), Giovanni Carrara (two) and Brian Shouse (one).
Johnson said his "big guys" won't play. "Most of the guys will be guys I haven't seen play," he said.
Around the horn
Asked what kind of third baseman Ripken will be this season, Johnson said, "He's going to be the Gold Glove, All-Star third baseman, as far as I'm concerned. Normally in the spring, sometimes he's concerned about getting three at-bats, other times he's concerned about getting four or five balls hit to him. I think it's going to be no different at third. He's going to want some action down there. That's the only way he's going to feel comfortable and get in a rhythm." So far, outfielder Eric Davis has been everything Johnson imagined he would be. "He's an outstanding athlete. When he's healthy, he's got as much talent as anybody. He does a lot of things well."
What the Orioles did yesterday: Nothing to get excited about. It was a shorter practice, with emphasis on rundowns and base-running drills. Pitchers threw on the side.
What the Orioles will do today: They'll take the next step toward Opening Day by playing the first intrasquad game, at 1 p.m. Mike Mussina and Shawn Boskie will be the starting pitchers, and both are expected to go two innings. This is manager Davey Johnson's chance to get better acquainted with the newcomers.
You know it's spring training when: Another New York writer showed up in front of outfielder Tony Tarasco's locker to ask about the fly ball that a 12-year-old fan at Yankee Stadium reached over the right-field wall to pull into the stands in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Pub Date: 2/26/97