Roberts' sore back keeps him on bench


Second baseman likely to miss 3 days of games

Julio's arm is up to speed

March 02, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is expected to miss both intrasquad games and Thursday's exhibition opener against the world champion Florida Marlins because of recurring back spasms.

Roberts sat out his third straight workout, and manager Lee Mazzilli indicated he could be inactive until the weekend.

"When he says he's 100 percent, we'll keep him out another day," Mazzilli said. "I know how guys are. I was like that, too. You think you're ready, and the next thing you know, you're set back another week."

Roberts ended last season as the starting second baseman, but Jerry Hairston is recovered from a broken right foot - an injury that occurred May 20 and cost him almost four months. One of them could be traded.

The lost time in camp apparently hasn't hurt Roberts' chances of winning the job.

"That shouldn't be a concern for him," Mazzilli said. "It's not for me."

Mazzilli will divide his regulars between two teams for today's first intrasquad game, which is expected to last three innings. Tomorrow's game could go four.

The Orioles have summoned pitchers Richard Stahl and Jeff Montani from their minor league camp in Sarasota, Fla., but their stay should be brief.

"I don't know how long they'll be here," Mazzilli said. "You always want to have a backup. I don't want to be short. You never know what could happen."

Montani ranked third in the South Atlantic League with 23 saves for Single-A Delmarva last season. Stahl, the 18th overall selection in the 1999 draft, was 1-3 with a 5.48 ERA in 28 games at Delmarva.

Sidney Ponson will oppose Josh Beckett, the Most Valuable Player in the 2003 World Series, in Thursday's exhibition opener.

Julio off to fast start

It doesn't sound as though Mazzilli has any concerns about closer Jorge Julio's right shoulder.

A case of tendinitis forced Julio to stop pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League and return to Baltimore for treatments and exercises, but his velocity has been exceptional here.

"He's throwing 308 mph in batting practice," Mazzilli said, exaggerating to make his point. "Nobody wants to hit off him."

Bedard feeling fine

For a change, any questions that come out of Erik Bedard's mouth this spring have little to do with his arm.

He no longer seeks counsel from other pitchers in camp who underwent the same ligament-transplant surgery, no longer picks their brains about rehabbing from a serious injury and the aftereffects of it.

Bedard is healthy - the first time he can say that since his career appeared in jeopardy two years ago - and not restricted in any way. He's just another pitcher at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, except he's also an elite prospect in the organization and determined to make the rotation in the near future. In that way, he's fine with being separated from the pack.

"I guess saying that I'm all the way back is a little premature," he said. "I feel 100 percent, but I haven't thrown enough to be sure of it."

Bedard, who turns 25 Saturday, made such a rapid recovery from the surgery that he appeared in six games last summer as part of his rehab assignment, including one at Single-A Frederick. It was a significant gain for a pitcher who spent much of his time in spring training getting advice from Scott Erickson, Pat Hentgen and Matt Riley on how to move forward after Tommy John surgery.

"They said, `Just stick to the [rehab] program and you'll be back in no time,' and that's what I did," said Bedard, who became the 200th Canadian to play in the majors when the Orioles promoted him for two relief appearances in 2002.

"When I came here last year, I had just started throwing and I asked a lot of questions, like why my arm would get sore. I didn't know what to expect, but they gave me information about how it was the same thing they went through, which helped a lot. They told me not to worry about it, and eventually it went away."

Bedard, who's 26-12 with a 2.62 ERA in 75 minor league games, could be headed to Triple-A Ottawa. If that happens, he'll be playing in a stadium that's about 15 minutes from his house.

Is this a good or bad thing? "Maybe a little bit of both," he said. "All my friends are there, and the media coverage will be a little more hectic because it's my hometown. But at least I'll be pitching."

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