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Notes: Hentgen's hip checked
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05/03/2004  8:58 PM ET
Notes: Hentgen's hip checked
Right-hander says he'll be good to go in next start
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Pat Hentgen is encouraged that the bursitis in his hip is responding to treatment. (Aaron Harris/AP)
TORONTO -- There was an important hip check in Toronto on Monday, but it had nothing to do with the Maple Leafs. Pat Hentgen said he should be fine to start on Tuesday, mere days after getting diagnosed with bursitis in his hip.

"I've never had any hip problems before in the past. After my last start, I just had some soreness in my hip when I rotate," he said. "I've been getting treatment on it and it's been responding really well. I'm going to be fine."

Still, Hentgen felt sore enough to get checked out when the Blue Jays were in Chicago, but he said he got some encouraging news. The doctors told Hentgen that groin pain could be an early sign of an arthritic hip, and the right-hander was relieved that he wasn't experiencing any of that.

He also wanted to make one other thing clear: The condition hasn't affected his performance as of yet.

"I never felt it during the game. It never affected the way I pitched. It was just one of those things," he said. "When I woke up, I felt it. It's like when your shoulder or arm is stiff after you pitch. That's how my hip felt. That's probably the best way to explain it."

So what's the long-term prognosis? Hentgen said he's not really sure, but he's already feeling better.

"I've never had this problem before, so I don't really know," he said. "I know that with rest between my last start and this start, it's feeling better and I should have no problems pitching."

The Iron Man cometh: Cal Ripken Jr. was in town on Monday night as part of his continuing effort to reach out to the grass-roots level of the game. The future Hall of Famer threw out the first pitch at SkyDome and talked about his newest endeavor, an instructional baseball book titled Play Baseball The Ripken Way.

Ripken co-wrote the book with his brother, Billy, to provide the same baseball education they got from their father, Cal Ripken Sr.

"We called Dad the Baseball Encylopedia, since he taught us how to play baseball," said the former shortstop. "We often wondered, how do kids learn baseball when they don't have the Baseball Encylopedia? Bill and I set out to bring tribute to Dad's life work by putting together some of his wisdom and his teachings down in the basic fundamental form. The way he taught us."

Ripken and his brother will stage a youth clinic on Tuesday, working with 40 kids from local house leagues. The players will range in age -- from 7 to 15 -- and athletic ability, but Ripken said it's more about giving them an experience they won't forget. He's always taken seriously his status as an ambassador of the game, and he knows what it means to choose athletes as role models.

"One of the biggest things I enjoyed about being a big league player was the positive influence you can have on the game itself, and especially to the kids," he said. "I remember how I felt when I was a kid watching baseball. I wanted to be a baseball player in the worst way, and watching the big leaguers, they couldn't do anything wrong. When I got to be a big-league player, one of the things I enjoyed was to encourage and talk to the kids."

SkyDome struggles: The Blue Jays lost eight of their first nine games at home, but Toronto manager Carlos Tosca doesn't think there's any mystical explanation.

"I think the majority is that we just haven't played good enough," he said. "That's the bottom line. I don't think you can point a finger at one thing or another."

Quotable: "I know they have more choices and there are more things to do, and it's not all that simple. But it's kind of sad to me that sometimes soccer fields replace baseball fields. I'd like to do whatever I can to energize and get the kids out there playing again. If you really look at it, the future of baseball relies on the passion and the interest of the kids." -- Ripken, talking about the dwindling numbers of young kids playing baseball.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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