NEW YORK - Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken was overwhelmingly elected to his 18th All-Star Game and 17th start in balloting announced yesterday by Major League Baseball. However, whether the Orioles will be represented by a player able to take the field for next Tuesday's game in Atlanta remains unresolved.
Ripken is on the disabled list because of to nerve inflammation in his lower back and is not eligible to be activated until July 13 - two days after the All-Star Game. However, Major League Baseball says because he is a starter, Ripken could play if his request is authorized by the club and accepted by American League manager Joe Torre and MLB chief operating officer Paul Beeston.
Ripken's election ties him for the American League record for appearances (18) with Orioles Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson. In addition, it marks a major-league record 16 straight seasons he was voted in by fans, breaking a tie with Rod Carew.
"It's a tremendous honor to be recognized by the fans for such a great event," Ripken said yesterday. "The All-Star Game has always been a special event, whether watching it on TV as a kid or participating as a player. It's an honor - a pleasure to be considered by the fans for this game.
"As far as playing in the game, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best."
Ripken's decision has created a tough situation for Torre. Should he start, Ripken would be obligated to play three innings.
"My only concern is I'd hate to see him get injured in an All-Star Game," said Torre. "That would be tough for me as manager if it's my decision to make. I've got some people to talk to yet."
Torre did not say whether he planned to discuss the situation with Ripken, who did not accompany the club to New York and continues to rest following an examination by Cleveland orthopedic specialist Dr. Henry Bohlman last Wednesday. During the visit, he underwent a magnetic resonance imaging and received his second cortisone injection this season. Ripken is following a prescription of rest accompanied by a stronger set of anti-inflammatory medication.
Ripken said Saturday that he had not ruled out playing in the game but admitted that would require significant improvement over the sensation he has felt for much of this season.
Pain or no pain, Ripken received 2,169,993 votes, more than twice as many as runner-up Travis Fryman and third-most in the league only to Texas catcher and incumbent AL Most Valuable Player Ivan Rodriguez and Cleveland second baseman Roberto Alomar.
Major League Baseball stipulates that every team must be represented at the game. But because Ripken was elected to the team, he is automatically considered a participant. His absence due to injury does not ensure a teammate will be named if he cannot play.
Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said yesterday that he has not lobbied on behalf of any of his players. "Joe has done this a few more times than I have," said Hargrove. "He's always taken the right guys."
If the fourth-place Orioles are represented by more than one player - and they haven't been without multiple representatives since 1995 - the list begins with catcher Charles Johnson and includes right fielder Albert Belle, hard-luck pitcher Mike Mussina, shortstop Mike Bordick and second baseman Delino DeShields.
Johnson, a four-time Gold Glove winner, has appeared in only one All-Star Game (1997) but has added offense to his strong defense this season and already has matched his career high with 19 home runs. Torre is expected to take his own catcher, Jorge Posada, as a backup to Rodriguez but may break convention and carry a third catcher.
Belle, who hasn't played in an All-Star Game since 1996, has surged recently and was named AL Player of the Month for June.
Mussina leads the league in innings pitched and carries a 3.84 ERA to contradict a 5-7 record. DeShields and Bordick never have been named to an All-Star Game but have each enjoyed strong offensive seasons. DeShields is tied for the league lead in stolen bases while batting .295; Bordick set a career high yesterday with his 14th home run and owns 50 RBIs.
The starters as voted by the fans for Tuesday night's All-Star Game in Atlanta: American League National League
Player, team Av. HR RBI Pos Player, team Av. HR RBI
I. Rodriguez, Tex. .362 25 72 Piazza, N.Y. .359 24 71
Ja. Giambi, Oak. .341 22 76 McGwire, St.L. .300 30 66
R. Alomar, Cle. .274 9 35 Kent, S.F. .355 23 80
Ripken, Orioles .239 13 43 C. Jones, Atl. .318 19 60
A.Rodriguez, Sea. .344 21 72 B. Larkin, Cin. .325 8 28
Williams, N.Y. .329 18 76 Griffey, Cin. .239 26 64
Dye, K.C. .311 20 62 Bonds, S.F. .310 28 57
M. Ramirez, Cle. .322 13 47 Sosa, Chi. .306 21 69
Note: Statistics through Monday's games. Pitchers and reserves will be announced today.