Groom speeds toward Route 70


Walking from the trainer's room after Monday's game, an ice pack resting on his left shoulder, Buddy Groom was asked about his availability for last night. He said nothing, offering only a glance and a small grin.

The comment was made in jest, but Groom wouldn't dismiss the possibility. Even after his fourth outing in five days. Even after covering the last two innings of the Orioles' 1-0 loss to Toronto.

Each jog from the bullpen carries added significance for Groom, who's trying to extend a record he shares with Colorado's Mike Myers for most consecutive seasons with at least 70 appearances. Getting his sixth will prove difficult, especially after adding another 23 pitches to his left arm while subduing the Blue Jays.

Groom, who was not used last night, has entered 66 of the Orioles' 157 games, leaving room to miss only one more this week. He hasn't been obsessed with numbers, however, aware only that he has reached the 60s but unsure of an exact total.

"Somebody asked me a couple days ago and I said, 'I think I have seven to go.' I wasn't thinking about how many games we had left. I haven't looked at the stats," he said.

Don't let his casual nature fool you. Though downplaying its importance, Groom doesn't want the streak to end. It's a testament to his durability and consistency in a major-league career that began with a 1992 promotion by the Detroit Tigers. "It would always be a little disappointing, but it's not anything I'm going to worry about or be mad about," he said. "That's the nature of the game."

If Groom falls short, he can lay partial blame on the back spasms that kept him out of a three-game series at Tampa Bay during the season's third week.

"I could be a game or two closer and that might be the difference. Those games were close," he said.

There also was his stint as the Orioles' closer when Ryan Kohlmeier faltered and Mike Trombley fell into a slump. Rather than face a hitter or two on consecutive days, Groom was stashed until the ninth inning when the Orioles were ahead. Once rookie Willis Roberts eased into the role, Groom returned to late-inning set-up, where his effectiveness doesn't always show up in the boxscores.

"I'm just hoping I can help the team when I get in there," said Groom, whose 11 saves continue to lead the Orioles. "It's never been something where I've felt like I've been overtaxed or it's been hard to do. I've been available to do it. That's the thing I'm thankful for."

To stay available, Groom has reduced his warm-up time in the bullpen. The fewer balls he throws beyond the outfield fence, the more he can throw in a game. The rest fall into the hands of manager Mike Hargrove, who wants to preserve the streak and allow Groom to catch Myers, who has 72 appearances.

"It's nothing I'll lose sleep over," Groom said, "but it would be nice."

Bigbie hobbles out

Rookie Larry Bigbie said he won't play again this season after pulling his right hamstring while running out a ground ball in the eighth inning of Monday's game.

Bigbie, who began the year at Double-A Bowie, had missed nine games with the same injury before returning to the lineup on Sept. 18. He's batting .229 with two homers and 11 RBIs.

"I'll just try to get ready for winter ball," said Bigbie, who will play in the Dominican Republic.

Kudos from Capitol Hill

Maryland Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. honored Cal Ripken yesterday by introducing House Resolution 247, which pays tribute to the Oriole's commitment to excellence on and off the baseball diamond.

Ehrlich, a Republican from the 2nd District, told his fellow legislators in Washington, "In a money-driven age, when athletes are lured from franchise to franchise by the biggest salary, Cal Ripken remained loyal to O's fans and the state of Maryland for all of his 21 spectacular seasons. He may be headed for Cooperstown in a few years, but Cal Ripken will always be a favorite son in Baltimore."

H. Res. 247 was enacted in the House with unanimous consent.

Ehrlich said: "On behalf of all Marylanders, my colleagues in Congress, and baseball enthusiasts around the world, I salute Cal on a record-breaking career and his lasting achievements in the Baltimore community."

Ripken envelope available

The Oriole Advocates will be selling a specially decorated envelope depicting Ripken through the years and the warehouse at Saturday's game. The envelope, canceled Oct. 6 at "Iron Man Station," costs $10, with all proceeds going to the Oriole Advocates, who have earmarked some funds for the Red Cross' disaster relief fund.

Fans can also get the envelope by mail for a $2 fee. Checks should be mailed to Oriole Advocates Charitable Foundation, P.O. Box 2295, Baltimore 21203-2295.

Around the horn

Jay Gibbons, on the 60-day disabled list after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand, took batting practice for the first time since his August surgery. He had been restricted to hitting indoors. ... Kohlmeier will make the first start of his major-league career Friday in the first game of a split doubleheader with the Red Sox. Jose Mercedes will start the night game ... ... The Orioles are selling a limited edition "Farewell to Cal" bobblehead set, which includes one doll of Ripken in his 1981 orange jersey, and another from this season. The dolls are $39 and can be obtained at Camden Yards or by calling 1-888-624-BIRD.

Wire services contributed to this article.

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