O's hope Roberts is week away from first start

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

March 15, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER AND JEFF ZREBIEC | CHILDS WALKER AND JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTERS

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Orioles hope second baseman Brian Roberts will see his first game action of the spring early next week.

Manager Sam Perlozzo said Roberts' first start could follow the team's day off Monday.

"If things were to proceed well enough this week, we would hope he'd be in there shortly after that," Perlozzo said.

"That's what we talked about," Roberts said. "We felt like that would probably be a good day to shoot for, based on the schedule. We thought that would give me enough time. Plus, it's right after a day off."

The team recently asked Roberts to ease off on his rehabilitation schedule because he felt soreness in his surgically repaired left elbow. He began taking batting practice against live pitching about a week ago.

Hitting coach Terry Crowley said Roberts' recovery has been unpredictable due to the severity of his injury, suffered in September.

"Yesterday [Monday], he attacked the ball," Crowley said. "He looked great. But he did that about a week ago and then went through a dead arm [period]. But he attacked the ball yesterday and stayed for extra hitting and did well."

Roberts said he doesn't know if he'll be ready for Opening Day.

"There's no way to know that until I get some games under my belt," he said. "But I felt like [Monday] was my best day. It's still a roller coaster. You have good days and bad days. Well, none of them are bad. Some are just better than others. Bad is when you're laying on an operating table."

Walker-Matos deal?

Talks between the Orioles and Chicago Cubs about the long-discussed Luis Matos-for-Todd Walker swap have intensified the past couple of days, according to industry sources. The holdup appears to be the Orioles' unwillingness to pick up the entire $2.5 million contract for the Cubs second baseman, who makes about $900,000 more than Matos.

Walker, 32, who is competing for Chicago's starting second base job, hit .305 last season with 12 homers and 40 RBIs. Orioles officials view the left-handed hitter mostly as a designated hitter who could give Perlozzo another good bat off the bench. Walker also could provide some infield insurance if Roberts isn't ready for Opening Day.

Matos, currently playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, is behind Corey Patterson in the duel to win the club's starting center-field job.

Mixed bag for Bedard

Despite leaving yesterday's game down 5-0, Erik Bedard looked sharp at times during his first start back from the World Baseball Classic.

Bedard worked ahead of hitters in the early innings and struck out six. But in the fourth, he gave up a long homer to the Mets' David Wright.

After Wright's blast and a misplayed ball in the outfield, Bedard appeared to lose command, walking two and allowing three singles before leaving the game. He threw 70 pitches.

"I just got a little tired," he said. "I left some pitches up, and they hit it."

Bedard said he still feels on track for a strong start though he was noncommittal when asked about his early relations with pitching coach Leo Mazzone. "I don't know him that well," he said. "We'll see."

Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez was impressed. "That is wicked right there," he said when Bedard froze Kazuo Matsui with a curve. "He's got some power stuff, boy."

No speed, no spot

The Orioles sent left-handed reliever Franklyn Gracesqui to their minor league camp yesterday.

"We were looking for a real power arm out of him," Perlozzo said. "I'm just going to guess his arm strength is not up to where he should be yet."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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