Roberts' O's plan hits snag

Hurt elbow reducing innings, roster chances

March 04, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Already faced with the prospect of missing about a week's worth of games, Orioles infielder Brian Roberts soon might learn that he needs another surgery on his right elbow, which would keep him out for significantly longer.

A magnetic resonance imaging and CT scan taken Saturday revealed some bone chips that could require the same arthroscopic procedure he underwent two years ago. Roberts will be re-examined today while the Orioles are playing the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

Recovery from that surgery can take up to two months, which would ruin any chance Roberts had of making the club as a utility infielder. Though team officials want him to play regularly, even if it means starting out at Triple-A Rochester, Roberts hoped to sway that opinion before the Orioles broke camp.

The club has shut down Roberts "for five or six days," said Syd Thrift, vice president for baseball operations. He's receiving daily treatments for inflammation in the elbow, which he hyperextended while swinging a bat.

"I have some loose bodies, some little chips," said Roberts, 23, who represents the Orioles' first significant injury this spring. Melvin Mora showed up with a fractured ring finger, but the club was better prepared for his absence.

"We haven't really decided the next step," Roberts said. "We'll try to make a decision the next couple of days. We've got to wait and see if it calms down a little bit."

It's conceivable Roberts could put off the surgery if the swelling subsides and the chips don't cause any pain or restrict his throwing motion.

"If you took X-rays or MRIs on the whole clubhouse, I bet about half of them would have bone chips," he said. "I think it's a matter of whether they're bothering me or not. If they're in a place that causes soreness, I probably would have to get them removed. But if the inflammation and pain go away, I could probably live with it."

Roberts said the elbow began bothering him during an intrasquad game last week, and he apparently aggravated the injury while taking another cut in Friday's 5-1 loss to the Montreal Expos in Jupiter.

The elbow stiffened the next day, and Roberts was sent to a local physician while the Orioles played the Los Angeles Dodgers in Fort Lauderdale. Second baseman Jerry Hairston was needed for all nine innings.

"I had a little soreness, and then it gradually got worse," Roberts said.

A supplemental pick between the first two rounds of the 1999 draft, Roberts was limited to 48 games at Single-A Frederick the next year because of the April 25 surgery. He didn't return to the field until going on a rehab assignment in early July.

After batting .301 at Frederick, Roberts was named the organization's 10th-best prospect by Baseball America. He spent a month at Double-A Bowie last year before moving up, with the Orioles purchasing his contract on June 14 when Mike Bordick went on the disabled list.

"When I had the bone chips removed last time, they always say there's a possibility you can have them again. But I don't know that it's necessarily related this time," he said.

"It's frustrating, but I try to rely on my faith a lot and trust that everything is going to work out eventually."

The Orioles dipped into their minor-league camp yesterday to counter a sudden shortage of players. Mora, moved from center field to a utility role, remains about a week away from playing. Minor-league infielders Ed Rogers and Eddy Garabito are stuck in the Dominican Republic, with Rogers' arrival anticipated later this week.

Garabito was supposed to compete for a utility job, while the Orioles wanted to see how much progress Rogers had made since last spring. If nothing else, they could have picked up the innings that Roberts has relinquished.

"They're our missing links," Thrift said.

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