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Hip Injury Forces Orioles’ Belle Into Retirement

From Associated Press

When word came that Albert Belle’s career was over because of a hip injury, the controversial star outfielder was nowhere to be found.

The end came with no fanfare, TV cameras or tears--just a four-paragraph press release distributed Thursday by the Baltimore Orioles.

It said, in part, that the 34-year-old Belle was “totally disabled and unable to perform as a major league baseball player.”

Belle never said much to the media, and Thursday was no different.

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Oriole vice president Syd Thrift had no idea where Belle was, and public relations director Bill Stetka couldn’t track down the reclusive star.

“He’s somewhere in the area,” Thrift guessed.

Belle was examined by two team doctors Wednesday and found to have a severe case of degenerative arthritis of the right hip.

“Belle has agreed that he is physically incapable of performing as a player and concurs with the findings of the doctors,” the statement said.

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Belle will be put on the 60-day disabled list Friday--the first step to protect the Orioles’ insurance coverage of his contract, which guarantees the slugger $39 million in the next three years.

About 70% of that total will be reimbursed to the team by the insurance company.

“We have been anticipating this for some time,” Thrift said.

Belle hit 381 homers and drove in 1,239 runs over 12 seasons. He is the only player to have 50 homers and 50 doubles in one season, a feat he accomplished in 1995.

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Mike Sirotka was given the go-ahead to throw off flat ground after another examination on his injured shoulder.

The 29-year-old left-hander, acquired by Toronto in January from the Chicago White Sox as part of the David Wells trade, hasn’t thrown this spring.

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Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Kris Benson agreed to a four-year, $13-million contract. . . . New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, slowed by an inflamed joint in his right shoulder, took part in his second full workout and remains on target to make his spring debut Saturday. . . . After watching Rick Ankiel’s latest throwing session, the St. Louis Cardinals think he’s almost ready for game action. “We’ll talk about it,” General Manager Walt Jocketty said. “I would think so.” . . . Oriole outfielder Luis Matos will undergo surgery on his dislocated left shoulder. . . . The Pirates rescinded the option of outfielder/first baseman Alex Hernandez to triple-A Nashville.


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