Orioles reliever Alan Mills still isn't available to pitch after suffering a pinched nerve in a pre-game collision with catcher Lenny Webster on Friday, and he may wind up on the disabled list. That would clear a spot for fourth starter Rocky Coppinger if he's activated Wednesday.
"It's a possibility," said manager Davey Johnson.
Mills has been having trouble raising his left arm and turning his head since running into Webster in the outfield while chasing a ground ball during batting practice. He's in obvious discomfort when walking through the clubhouse.
"It's getting better, but it's slow -- too slow," he said, adding that he didn't know when he'd be ready.
Said Johnson: "The initial report I got, it could be three to five days, it could be one day, it could be 10 days, two weeks. It's that kind of deal. We'll have to see."
The news is much better on Coppinger, who has been on the disabled list since March 31 with inflammation in his right shoulder. He pitched in a three-inning simulated game in the bullpen before yesterday's game and reported that he felt good enough to pitch.
The club still hasn't made a decision whether to activate him when he's eligible Wednesday or send him on an injury-rehabilitation assignment in the minors.
"Having somebody who's been out a couple weeks, it never hurts to go and pitch five innings or so somewhere," Johnson said. "One of the reasons you do it is because it gives you a little bit better read on yourself, gives you a little better feel, in more of a controlled situation. It doesn't matter what you do, it's just how many pitches you throw. We'll cross that bridge when we need to cross it, which is rapidly approaching."
Coppinger just wants the ball. He said he threw "a little erratic" yesterday, but thinks he's ready to pitch.
"If I go down for a rehab assignment, it can't be bad, and if I don't, it's even better. I'm ready to pitch somewhere. It's been a long two weeks."
Pitching coach Ray Miller said Coppinger probably will take two days off after yesterday's session.
Ripken rolls on
Cal Ripken continued his white-hot April yesterday.
Despite a spring of defensive adjustments and contract negotiations, seldom has he started a season this hot.
Ripken singled and homered in his first two at-bats against Texas starter Roger Pavlik in the Orioles' 9-0 win. The effort gives him hits in eight of the Orioles' nine games, four home runs, 11 RBIs and a .410 average. He also leads the team with a .769 slugging average.
Ripken downplayed the significance of having settled on a two-year contract extension but did allow that he is playing the game more relaxed.
Ripken hit .267 last April but his power developed slowly. He homered in only one of 101 at-bats during the month, with 13 RBIs. This year, helped perhaps by the greater time spent in exhibition games as he adapted to third base, Ripken has been a force.
"Spring training was a little bit more involved," he said. "I played a lot of innings. I played a lot of games. But I don't think it was any more than normal."
Ripken's only hitless game came Friday night in the Orioles' 9-3 win when he went 0-for-5.
A happy Hammonds
Each time Jeffrey Hammonds begins to heat up, so do the questions about whether he's about to meet the expectations that came with being the fourth overall pick in the 1992 draft.
He answers each one politely, but he clearly doesn't enjoy it.
When asked after yesterday's two-homer performance if the Jeffrey Hammonds is showing, he said, "Who's the Jeffrey Hammonds?
"I'm happy, I'm healthy. I can't worry about being somebody else's can't-miss guy. I know what I can do. I'd have to play this game a long time to detract everything that's been said about me."
Around the horn
The Orioles have won four of five games against the Rangers. They were 3-10 against Texas last season. Hammonds got his first stolen base this season in the fourth inning. Former Oriole Bill Ripken made a diving catch at shortstop of a liner from Brady Anderson to end the second inning. Another former Oriole, center fielder Damon Buford, ended an 0-for-20 skid with an eighth-inning single. Chris Hoiles' fifth-inning home run was the 125th of his career. Jimmy Key's win was his 34th career complete game and 13th shutout, his first since beating the Chicago White Sox, 4-0, on May 28, 1993.
Pub Date: 4/14/97