O's scale back Roberts' rehab


Arm sore from extra hitting, second baseman told easy does it

Chen voices World Classic praise


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Still unsure if Brian Roberts will be ready for Opening Day, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo has slowed down the rehabilitation process of the All-Star second baseman in an effort to keep him fresh for the season.

Perlozzo said that his decision should not be construed as a setback in Roberts' attempt to return from extensive surgery on his left elbow in September. Rather, Roberts has felt some soreness because of the number of swings he has been taking, and the manager thought it best for Roberts to ease up a bit.

"We upped the intensity and he was a little body weary again and the one arm was a little fatigued - not in the area of the injury, though," Perlozzo said. "This is a kid that doesn't know anything but hard work. Now is the time to freshen him up, keep him strong. Today, we just fit him in with a regular [batting practice] group, and he's going to hit just like everybody else. Hopefully, a couple of days of that will get him freshened up."

Perlozzo said that he told Roberts to scale down his daily hitting routine from 125 swings to about 45. The manager has given Roberts the green light to decide when he wants to begin playing in the exhibition season. Perlozzo wouldn't rule out giving Roberts frequent days off early in the season.

"To me, it's hard to say, `This is probably what's going to happen,'" Perlozzo said. "I think in three days, he could be a guy that comes out and says I'm ready to go in the game. He could start out like gangbusters in the beginning or he could play two [games] and I am going to sit him one. It's going to be a read that we're just going to have to go with as we go along."

Chen returns

His voice hoarse, Orioles starter Bruce Chen rejoined his teammates yesterday after pitching for Panama in the World Baseball Classic.

"It was one of the best experiences I've ever had," said Chen, who is expected to start today for the Orioles against the Marlins, followed by Erik Bedard tomorrow. "I've never been to the World Series or playoffs, but if it's like that, we need to get there.

"It was unbelievable. Look at my voice. I was yelling for the first two games. It was so much intensity, so much fun. It was just great."

Chen threw five innings in Panama's loss to Cuba, allowing two runs. Panama went 0-3 in the tournament.

"I'm very proud of all my teammates," he said. "They all made sacrifices. Some don't live in the city. They have to train over there and leave their families and they were only getting like $15 a day for meals.

"They played so hard. We wanted to do it for our country, but unfortunately, we didn't make it to the next round."

Five reassigned

Adam Loewen, the left-hander who led Canada to a shocking victory over the United States in the first round of the World Baseball Classic, was one of four Orioles pitchers optioned to Double-A Bowie and John Stephens was reassigned to the club's minor league camp in Sarasota, Fla., yesterday.

The other pitchers optioned were Jim Johnson, Brian Finch and Marino Salas.

"They need to get stretched out," Perlozzo said. "We got a couple of guys back, so they are going to be doing the starting and getting so many of the innings. Those guys are going to need to get ready for their season, especially the starters. They need to start throwing some innings over there."

On Loewen, Perlozzo said, "He needs to pitch. It's more important that he gets his work in and gets going. He's the kind of guy that, I think, can come quick for us, so he needs to be ready."

Striking outing

His performance mostly overshadowed by an otherwise struggling bullpen this spring, Orioles 25-year-old right-hander Sendy Rleal is beginning to get noticed.

In the Orioles' 3-2 victory over the New York Mets, Rleal, signed as a non-drafted free agent, pitched a dominating eighth inning, striking out the side. He has a 1.80 ERA and five strikeouts in five innings so far this spring and has pitched his way into a decent position to win a spot in the Orioles' bullpen.

"He's been moving up," Perlozzo said. `That changeup of his makes him a real interesting guy for me."

For Double-A Bowie last season, Rleal was 4-4 with a 2.04 ERA and struck out 75 in 70 1/3 innings.


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