- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2000

BOSTON Cal Ripken, who broke one of baseball's most venerated records by playing in 2,632 consecutive games from 1982 to 1998, has gone on the disabled list for the third time in two seasons.

The Baltimore Orioles' third baseman, who will turn 40 in August, was placed on the 15-day DL yesterday, one day after he was forced to leave Tuesday night's game at Fenway Park because of intense pain in his lower back and legs.

"Cal's not one to show much pain, so you know for him to leave a game that was still on the line, he must have been hurting a lot," said outfielder Brady Anderson, after Ripken the longest-tenured Oriole (13 seasons) and one of his closest friends. "He hasn't said much about it bothering him it's not his nature to complain but you could tell watching his facial expressions that he's not feeling as well as he had been earlier in the season."

The combination of Ripken's age, recent medical problems and having no more milestones left to chase again raises the issue of the Baltimore icon's retirement. However, Anderson expects to see Ripken playing again.

"I haven't spoken to him since [Tuesday] night, but assuming he didn't suffer a new injury and it's just something lingering from his back problems, then I think all he needs is time to heal and then he'll be back out there," Anderson said.

This is the first trip to the DL this year for baseball's Iron Man. He went on it twice last year before back surgery ended his season in mid-September.

That procedure, performed in Cleveland by Dr. Henry Bohlman, was supposed to reduce pressure on the nerves in his lower back that was causing pain and stiffness. The inflamed nerves also sent sharp pains shooting down into his legs.

"That he was able to play so soon after surgery like that is pretty amazing," Anderson said. "Most people would be happy to be walking right now if they'd had surgery when he had it."

Yesterday morning Ripken flew to Cleveland to be examined by Bohlman, and the Orioles were awaiting his report to determine how long Ripken will be out. Manager Mike Hargrove said until he gets that diagnosis, speculation would be a "straw grasp out of midair."

However, Hargrove hinted that Ripken may be out some time by saying that Ryan Minor, who was summoned from Class AAA Rochester to take Ripken's roster spot, was going to play more than in his last stint with the Orioles earlier this season. Hargrove added, "The last time Ryan was here was temporary."

If the pain in Ripken's back is something that merely requires rest, he could play again this season. However, if it requires additional surgery, he likely would be out for the year.

Earlier this season, the inflammation in Ripken's back grew so bad that he went to Cleveland and received a cortisone injection that, at least temporarily, eased the pain. After that, Ripken went on a mini-power surge and had hit 13 home runs by June 10, putting him on pace to match his career high of 34 in 1991. But as the back became progressively worse, Ripken was 2-for-31 over his last eight games to drop his average to .239.

In the 10th inning of Tuesday's win, Ripken reached first base on an RBI fielder's choice but was limping noticeably while running down the line and immediately left the game.

Earlier this season, Ripken got his 3,000th hit, becoming just the seventh player with at least that many hits and 400 home runs. A two-time American League MVP, Ripken helped the Orioles win the 1983 World Series in his second season.

Ripken leads American League third baseman in All-Star Game balloting but now he won't be eligible to be activated until July 13, two days after this year's extravaganza in Atlanta. The Orioles are awaiting word from Major League Baseball regarding whether Ripken, if healthy, could play in the game despite being on the DL.

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