O's Roberts gets his running in, but return is up in air

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

`Hopefully, it won't be too much longer,' he says

Notebook

Baseball

June 05, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

DETROIT - Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts did some running yesterday after returning from his examination in Baltimore on Friday, but it could be another day before he picks up a bat or a ball, leaving his return to the lineup a mystery.

Roberts was relieved to learn from a magnetic resonance imaging test that his sore right shoulder hadn't suffered any more damage. He's dealing with a strained rotator cuff, nothing more serious.

"Anytime your body doesn't feel right, you can't help [but] to think worst-case scenarios," Roberts said. "But deep down, I felt like it was similar to spring training, probably muscular, and our trainers did, too. But you've got to make sure in that situation.

"It's better. It's coming along. Hopefully, it won't be too much longer."

Roberts was available to pinch run last night against the Detroit Tigers if needed, though Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli preferred not to use him.

"He'd be the last emergency guy I'd put in," Mazzilli said. "You've got to be careful. I don't want to set him back just to pinch run."

It's possible that Roberts could return to the leadoff spot tomorrow in Pittsburgh.

"That would be a good situation, but I have no idea if we'll make it or not," Roberts said. "I don't think there's any harm in shooting for something like that. I think you've got to get it calmed down. Obviously, if you do anything too quickly, it could easily flare back up again. You hate to put a date on anything, but I'd like to be out there as soon as possible."

The Orioles must hope that the strain doesn't become a chronic issue. He missed two weeks of spring training games because of a similar ailment.

"They don't have any explanations, really. That's what we're trying to figure out. I can't even say for sure that it's the same thing," he said.

"I don't know why it would go away for three months and then pop up. If we knew, I think we'd all feel a lot better."

Meanwhile, center fielder Luis Matos took some one-handed swings and played catch with assistant trainer Brian Ebel after having his right ring finger examined Friday in Baltimore by hand specialist Dr. Mark Deitch.

"I'm a week ahead of schedule. The doctor said it was amazing that the skin has healed that good," said Matos, who broke his finger May 10.

"We're just taking it easy because the skin is very soft right now. I'm one week ahead, but they don't want to take it too strong because the skin can fall off again and it would be a big setback."

Matos apparently is more than a week away from being ready for a minor league rehabilitation assignment. He doesn't expect to swing with both hands for three more days.

"He's got to take baby steps," Mazzilli said. "It's almost like starting over in spring training."

Pitcher Erik Bedard, on the disabled list with a sprained ligament in his left knee, is throwing off flat ground and will be re-examined Friday before most likely going on an injury rehab assignment.

Saunders working out

Tony Saunders, the former Glen Burnie High left-hander who's attempting a comeback after a five-year retirement, resumed workouts again at the Orioles' minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla., but he won't be pitching anytime soon.

David Stockstill, director of minor league operations, said Saunders, 31, is "quite a ways away" after being hospitalized in late April with severe back spasms. "He's progressing," Stockstill said, "but he's still a ways away."

Saunders, who broke his left arm twice while pitching and retired on Aug. 26, 2000, was hospitalized for two days because of the spasms. Doctors gave Saunders intravenous fluids, and the Orioles - who assigned him to extended spring training until he was ready to join Double-A Bowie - instructed him to sit out four weeks before he could resume throwing.

"This had to do, I'm sure, with the heat, the humidity and his body not being used to doing that type of work the strenuous, physical activity," Stockstill said. "This has nothing to do with his arm."

The Orioles, who signed Saunders as a free agent on Jan. 19, won't project when he'll be cleared to pitch. He appeared in one intrasquad game and one exhibition game before reporting to Sarasota. The club envisions him as a left-handed relief specialist.

Asked if he remains confident that Saunders will pitch later this year, Stockstill said: "I sure hope so. That's all I can say at the moment."

Around the horn

The Orioles named infielder/outfielder Napoleon Calzado as the organization's minor league Player of the Month for May after he batted .368 with five homers and 19 RBIs at Triple-A Ottawa. ... Double-A Bowie reliever Chris Ray was named Pitcher of the Month after going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA and seven saves in 13 appearances.

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