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Ailing Ripken ponders off-season surgery

Cal Ripken is convinced his second stint on the disabled list will last no longer than the required 15 days, but he admitted that off-season surgery might be an option if his ailing back continues to be a problem.

Ripken woke up Sunday morning full of energy, but by the time he reached the breakfast table he was bent over in pain. He skipped the Orioles' game against Seattle and was placed on the disabled list Tuesday.

The 17-time All-Star has received a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain caused by back spasms. He was walking gingerly in the Baltimore clubhouse Thursday afternoon, dressed in street clothes.

"I have every reason to believe the smartest thing is to get the inflammation out of there, continue to do the exercises and then go back and play," he said.

"I have every confidence that I'll be ready to step back in after that time is up with a better body and be able to swing the bat," he said.

When he returns, Ripken will resume his quest to become the 29th player to hit 400 homers (he has 399). He also is 32 hits short of 3,000.

Ripken went on the disabled list the first time in his career April 20. He returned May 14 and said he experienced no back pain until Sunday morning.

"It came back when I least expected it to," he said.

Now he has no idea whether he's stuck with a chronic problem, one that can be remedied only by surgery.

"Obviously, if surgery was the magical answer it would present itself. If (the spasms) continue to reoccur, then you have look seriously at a way to stop it, and surgery appears to be an option," he said.

Drug czar praises Mac

Mark McGwire hit a home run for kids and parents by saying he's off Androstenedione, doctors and the White House drug czar say.

Now they want to see baseball ban Andro for good.

"The message Mark McGwire sends to our young people by walking away from this substance is a powerful one," said Barry R. McCaffrey, the White House drug policy director.

"We all need to be aware that just because a superstar stops using Andro, the problem doesn't just go away. Countless young people still take this potentially dangerous substance _ banned by the NFL, the Olympics, the NCAA and professional tennis _ in order to improve their athletic performance. We must continue to focus on the risks at hand."

In the year since the Associated Press reported that McGwire was using Androstenedione during his 70-homer season, sales of the testosterone booster surged more than 1,000 percent to over $50-million, according to industry figures.

Doctors are worried that with easy access to the over-the-counter supplement through the Internet and nutrition stores, thousands of young people might be risking long-term illness. Andro manufacturers say more than 100 major- and minor-leaguers are using the supplement, which converts to testosterone in the body and is considered an anabolic steroid by most steroid specialists.

STRAWBERRY HITLESS: Yankees OF Darryl Strawberry, in the second game of his comeback with Triple-A Columbus, went hitless and drove in a run in visiting Indianapolis' 6-4 victory. Strawberry's RBI, a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, was his first since returning from a 120-day suspension after his arrest on solicitation and drug charges in Tampa in April. He played leftfield and hit cleanup, grounding out in the second and fourth and flying out in the sixth.

CUBS TO JAPAN?: Sammy Sosa, instead of McGwire, might be the slugger who starts the 2000 season in Japan. With McGwire and the Cardinals rejecting the trip, Chicago said it will consider traveling to Tokyo to play the Mets in next year's major-league opener. Sosa is popular in Japan and will go there in November because of commercial endorsements.

SHEFFIELD CALLS FOR BREAKUP: Dodgers LF Gary Sheffield followed the lead of several teammates, saying the disappointing team should be overhauled because the parts don't fit. Sheffield included himself among the guilty, and the five-time All-Star did not single out anyone as the main problem. "It definitely can't work the way it is now," the St. Petersburg resident and former Hillsborough High star said. "This organization's goal is to get to the playoffs and win (the World Series), and this team just can't do that. I know what it takes to win in the playoffs, and this team doesn't have close to what it takes to even think about that."

RATINGS UP: Halfway through its Saturday Game of the Week telecasts, Fox's ratings are up 11 percent this season. Fox is averaging a 3.0 rating and 10 share for nine broadcasts, up 11 percent from its 2.7 rating for its first nine telecasts last season.

ANGELS: 1B Mo Vaughn was diagnosed with a staph infection of the right shin and is day-to-day.

ASTROS: OF Carl Everett, a former Hillsborough High star, was activated from the 15-day DL. OF Lance Berkman was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.

BRAVES: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron threw out the first pitch of the game against the Pirates. A pregame ceremony celebrated the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record.

EXPOS: RHP Carl Pavano and minor-league OF Peter Bergeron were examined in Montreal. An MRI exam of Pavano's right elbow revealed fluid and mild tendinitis. He was to receive a cortisone injection and will not throw for 10 days. Bergeron's exam showed tendinitis in his right shoulder. He will be limited to DH duties with Triple-A Ottawa for two weeks.

ORIOLES: Bench coach Eddie Murray was named to manage the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League in October. It will be his managerial debut.

PIRATES: LHP Jimmy Anderson makes his first major-league start in the first game of today's doubleheader against St. Louis.

RANGERS: Rookie OF Ruben Mateo was placed on the 15-day DL with a broken bone in his left wrist. Mateo, 21, is scheduled for surgery today to remove pieces of broken bone from his wrist and is expected to be out at least six weeks. OF Tom Goodwin was activated.

REDS: LHP Steve Avery had surgery on his left shoulder, ending his 1999 season. He can begin throwing again in six weeks. Former Tigers manager Buddy Bell was named director of player development. He replaces Muzzy Jackson, who resigned to join the Royals.

_ TIMES WIRES

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Boggs career statistics

Year, team G AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB Avg

1976, Elmira 57 179 29 47 0 15 29 15 2 .263

1977, Winston-Salem 117 422 67 140 2 55 65 22 8 .332

1978, Bristol 109 354 63 110 1 32 53 25 1 .311

1979, Bristol 113 406 56 132 0 41 66 21 11 .325

1980, Pawtucket 129 418 51 128 1 45 64 25 3 .306

1981, Pawtucket 137 498 67 167 5 60 89 41 4 .335

1982, Boston 104 338 51 118 5 44 35 21 1 .349

1983, Boston 153 582 100 210 5 74 92 36 3 .361

1984, Boston 158 625 109 203 6 55 89 44 3 .325

1985, Boston 161 653 107 240 8 78 96 61 2 .368

1986, Boston 149 580 107 207 8 71 105 44 0 .357

1987, Boston 147 551 108 200 24 89 105 48 1 .363

1988, Boston 155 584 128 214 5 58 125 34 2 .366

1989, Boston 156 621 113 205 3 54 107 51 2 .330

1990, Boston 155 619 89 187 6 63 87 68 0 .302

1991, Boston 144 546 93 181 8 51 89 32 1 .332

1992, Boston 143 514 62 133 7 50 74 31 1 .259

1993, New York (AL) 143 560 83 169 2 59 74 49 0 .302

1994, New York (AL) 97 366 61 125 11 55 61 29 2 .342

1995, New York (AL) 126 460 76 149 5 63 74 50 1 .324

1996, New York (AL) 132 501 80 156 2 41 67 32 1 .311

1997, New York (AL) 104 353 55 103 4 28 48 38 0 .292

1998, Tampa Bay 123 435 51 122 7 52 46 54 3 .280

1999, Tampa Bay 78 256 36 75 1 22 33 22 1 .293

MLB totals 2428 9144 1509 2997 117 1007 1407 744 24 .328

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