Business as usual: Ripken returns With just minor soreness, he plays first five innings


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Cal Ripken took grounders at third base during batting practice yesterday, pronounced himself fit and was a late addition to the Orioles' starting lineup.

Ripken, who had missed the past two games with a strained left groin muscle, said there was a little soreness, but nothing to restrict his movement.

"If I thought it would be risky, I wouldn't try it," he said before the Orioles and New York Mets played to a 3-3 tie in 10 innings. "I don't want sit down and not get the chance to get some innings in at third."

Ripken played the first five innings and went 2-for-2, then had to answer more delicate questions. "This is the last time I tell you guys about a minor injury," he said, smiling.

"I think I felt it one time. I can't remember what I was doing; maybe it was when I slid [into second]. But there was no aftereffect."

Said manager Davey Johnson, "I guess the panic is off."

B. J. Surhoff, who was going to start at third if Ripken couldn't, moved to left field, replacing Jeffrey Hammonds.

Alomar's ankle improves

Ripken's former double-play partner, second baseman Roberto Alomar, is getting closer to returning from a badly sprained left ankle. He played catch briefly in the indoor batting cage, said there was "no pain at all," then went on a 12-minute walk with head trainer Richie Bancells.

"It went very well," Bancells said. "I anticipate he'll do a walk with a light jog on Friday."

Alomar, who sprained the ankle while playing basketball last month, walked without a limp yesterday and said most of the swelling had gone down.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "I'll have to take it step by step, day by day, and see how well it's getting. If it was up to me, I'd be running out there right now, but they know how slowly I should go and are taking precautions.

"It was a good sign for the first day out there. When I came here, I could barely walk."

50 players remain in camp

The Orioles made their second cuts of spring training, effective after the game, reducing the number of players in camp to 50.

Assigned to the minor-league camp in Sarasota were right-handed pitchers Chris Fussell, Billy Percibal, Sidney Ponson, Alvie Shepherd and Matt Snyder, and left-hander Brian Shouse. Right-hander Esteban Yan was optioned to Triple-A Rochester.

The Orioles also purchased the contract of right-hander Shawn Boskie, who was signed as a free agent during the off-season as the possible fifth starter, and added him to the 40-man roster. To make room for Boskie, the club outrighted infielder Scott McClain to Rochester, though he'll remain in the major-league camp.

Percibal, making a comeback from major elbow surgery nine months ago, worked one inning against Dodgers. He walked two, but struck out Mike Piazza, Eric Karros and Greg Gagne, three players who will be in the starting lineup on Opening Day.

"I was feeling my heart going, 'Boom, boom, boom,' like that," he said.

Fussell and Shouse each threw a scoreless inning yesterday. Shepherd allowed one run.

Dempsey eyes old number

Former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey was here yesterday as a spring training instructor with the Mets. While the Orioles were taking batting practice, he spotted outfielder Eric Davis wearing No. 24, which used to belong to Dempsey.

"Man, they'll give my number to anybody," he said, to which Davis replied, "I wanted to keep the legend going."

"Yeah," Dempsey shot back, "but I didn't get a $50,000 check or a Rolex."

Around the horn

Right-fielder Alex Ochoa, once a top Orioles prospect before being sent to the Mets in the Bobby Bonilla deal in 1995, delivered the game's first run with a sacrifice fly to right in the fourth inning. Davis ran down the ball near the line, the first of his two outstanding catches. The other came with one out in the fifth inning and a runner on third, when he backhanded Lance Johnson's sinking liner in the gap before tumbling to the ground. Mets reliever John Habyan, a former Oriole who still lives in Bel Air, gave up a two-run single to Tony Tarasco in the ninth that tied the score at 3. Orioles starter Rocky Coppinger said his strained left arch, which he aggravated last week, didn't bother him during his two shutout innings. He got some sound pitching advice from Mike Mussina, who told Coppinger he was drifting too much on his delivery. Catcher Chris Hoiles made a great throw in the third inning to cut down Edgar Alfonzo trying to steal second. Hoiles' replacement, Cesar Devarez, had an RBI single in the sixth that reduced New York's lead to 2-1. Manny Alexander started at second, then moved to shortstop and went 2-for-4 with a run scored. He's batting .571. Pete Incaviglia spent batting practice unloading more balls over the left-field fence. One of his blasts, which landed on the auxiliary field, caused an Oriole who was shagging flies to just turn and wave at the ball as it sailed high over his head.

Pub Date: 3/06/97

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