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© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001

Ripken adds class -- to the bench

DETROIT -- Baseball's Iron Man has been reduced to a part-time player and isn't complaining about it.

"There's a bigger plan," Cal Ripken said. "There's a master plan. We're in a rebuilding process in a way, but also we're trying to win right now, too."

Playing Ripken every day is not part of the Orioles' plan.

Manager Mike Hargrove told Ripken on Saturday that he needed to see what younger players, such as Mike Kinkade, could do.

Despite Ripken's three-run homer in a 6-4 win Wednesday at Detroit, he sat Thursday as the Tigers beat the Orioles 8-2. Neither Ripken nor Hargrove addressed the situation Thursday. It was expected Ripken will play tonight at Minnesota.

Hargrove said Wednesday he experienced a similar situation in Cleveland, where aging stars Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield were on the roster.

He doesn't know, or isn't saying, how many games Ripken will play each week.

"Some weeks it may be five," he said. "The next week it may be two."

Regardless of how Ripken's career closes, he will be remembered for setting the record for consecutive games played, a streak that shattered Lou Gehrig's mark and ended at 2,632 in 1998.

The 40-year-old has more than 3,000 hits, 400 homers and 1,600 RBI.

Ripken entered the season with a .277 career average but was batting .161 through 21 games.

His 21st season began after he fractured a rib in spring training, and Ripken appears reluctant to make noise about his new role.

"I get a hit and everybody wants to talk to me," he joked after Wednesday's homer.

Ripken said he's as healthy as he has been in a few years. He seems to want to make Hargrove's decisions tougher by being productive.

"Your best protection and your best security as a player is to hit and play well," Ripken said. "When you hit and play well, then you deserve to be in the lineup."

There has been speculation this could be the last year for Ripken, who signed a one-year contract after last season.

GIANTS: Felipe Crespo was placed on the disabled list with a torn tendon in his right foot. Crespo, a utility infielder and outfielder who was the Giants' top pinch-hitter last season, got three hits and three RBI in 15 at-bats this season. The Giants recalled infielder Edwards Guzman from Triple-A Fresno to replace Crespo. Guzman, who went 0-for-15 during a brief callup last season, was hitting .338 with 10 RBI in Fresno.

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