FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Albert Belle passed his physical Tuesday and began working out with the Baltimore Orioles despite being hampered by an arthritic right hip.

After being examined by team physicians in the morning, Belle was limping noticeably as he participated in his first practice this spring.

Passing the physical was an important step, but there are no assurances that Belle will be able to play effectively, if at all, when the regular season starts in April.

``We just have to wait and see what he does and see how he reacts to baseball activities,'' Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations, said Tuesday. ``We have to how he plays the outfield, how he runs, how he hits, basically all baseball activities.''

Belle claimed early this week that he was healthy enough to play, and manager Mike Hargrove has projected him as the Orioles' starting right fielder on opening day.

``I feel like right now I can play. How many games, I couldn't tell you,'' Belle said Sunday. ``It'll just be day by day. But I'm pretty much on course.''

Belle has three years left on the $65 million, five-year contract he signed before the 1999 season.

He missed 20 games last September with an inflamed bursa sac in the right hip pointer area. He finished with a .281 batting average and 103 RBIs, but his 23 homers ended a streak of eight straight seasons with at least 30.

He hit .248 with five homers and 42 RBIs over the last 65 games.