SARASOTA, Fla. -- Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. was at Orioles camp Wednesday afternoon to promote his newest children's book and throw out the ceremonial first pitch, a strike to shortstop J.J. Hardy.
But does one of the most famous shortstops in baseball history see a return to the organization in a managerial or front-office position?
"The safe answer is to say, I'm very happy doing what I'm doing right now because anything else I say can be pulled in different directions," Ripken said. "That would be the safe answer. I've had success in a couple of business models from the kids' models that I'm looking to duplicate around the country, which requires time and planning, but there is a side of me that would like to be able to apply what you know at this level. I have no plans. I have no business strategy. I have no professional baseball strategy whatsoever, but there's a side of me that feels that way. Does that leave the door open?"
Ripken, who said he'd have to "undo" some of his life to be more present in the Orioles' organization, also came around for a similar signing last spring and the ballpark trips have been a welcome part of the book tour.
"I get a glimpse of what my life used to be like and also stay busy and do some of the things that I like to do as well," he said. "I feel very comfortable going into [manager] Buck [Showalter's] clubhouse. I sat down with Millsy [Alan Mills] and Scotty Mac [Scott McGregor] and Bordy [Mike Bordick]. In many ways, it feels like old times, which is really cool, and I enjoy that. Spring Training time is a very busy time of the year for me in some of the other businesses that I have going on, so it's not always as easy to schedule a block of time."
Ripken said he hadn't had a chance to evaluate the Orioles' flurry of signings this spring, but he was familiar with the additions of pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Suk-min Yoon and outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz.
"It's kind of funny to me, being around Baltimore, that the expectations have risen the last couple of years about this team," he said. "In the early parts everyone was saying we hadn't made any moves, kind of stood pat to improve the team, so there's an expectation now that there's a foregone conclusion you're a competitive playoff team and that you need to improve your team each and every year, like everybody else in your division is doing.
"So to see the flurry of moves, Jimenez, I guess he's on the mound right now. That's an interesting arm and an interesting addition to the staff because the potential from now is really interesting. And to add a big bat to the lineup, is really interesting. The DH role, managers utilize it in many different ways with many different people. I'm of the opinion that DH is a position in the American League. If you have one person that can handle that, he's in scoring position when he steps into the batter's box. That's a big plus to have on your team."
Ripken also praised Hardy for being an exceptional shortstop "without a lot of fanfare" and for being such a consistent presence in the lineup. With the O's shortstop in a contract year and the team working toward an extension, would Ripken like to see Hardy remain in Baltimore?
"Well, think about what you have now. You have one of the best shortstops in the league playing shortstop for you every day, being productive. And then you have a young kid next to him [in Manny Machado] that has proved out that he can be considered one of the best third basemen in the league," Ripken said. "So you have a great left side of the infield. So who wouldn't want that?
"Now having said that if J.J. goes down to injury or J.J. ends up moving on, it's interesting to look at the skills set that Manny Machado brings. And to project him at the position. But I'm not in the inner meetings of Buck Showalter and [executive vice president] Dan Duquette and kind of thinking about what they are doing. I'm saying it from a shortstop's perspective, seeing a skill set that Manny brings and the strength of arm. At some point it would be interesting to see him apply those types of skills to the position of shortstop. But if you had a choice of having those two guys for five, six more years, that's a pretty good left side of the infield."
Ripken, who was promoting his book "Squeeze Play," the fourth installment of the "Cal Ripken Jr.'s All-Stars" series, also praised the potential of the lineup.
"You have the nucleus of everyday two-way players that is pretty good," he said. "And you add [Nelson] Cruz to that lineup and the evolution of [Chris] Davis as a premiere power hitter in the league positions you pretty well. And Manny Machado is just going to get better and better and start to learn his skill set and his power. Because he does possess power, as you've seen many times. So, potentially this offense has the potential to be one of the better offenses in the league and score a lot of runs. What wins ultimately is your ERA and your pitching. So the potential for this team to have a deep pitching staff is there as well."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less