Orioles anticipate nearly full roster

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Tejada, Cabrera, Gibbons and Roberts to return

March 20, 2006|By CHILDS WALKER | CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTER

FORT MYERS, FLA. -- With Miguel Tejada and Daniel Cabrera returning from the World Baseball Classic and Jay Gibbons and Brian Roberts back from injuries, the Orioles may be able to field something resembling their starting team for the first time tomorrow.

"It makes me feel a lot better," manager Sam Perlozzo said of having his regulars back. "There are fundamentals we need to do as a group."

The manager said he expects Gibbons and Roberts to start tomorrow against the New York Mets. He hopes Tejada will be in camp and ready to play as well.

Gibbons has been out for 10 days with a strained hamstring. Roberts will make his much-anticipated first start of the spring after rehabilitating from a horrific elbow injury, suffered in September. The second baseman has hit solidly during recent batting practice sessions, though he has looked better from the left side than the right.

Tejada has been away for more than two weeks. He batted .292 for the Dominican Republic but hit no home runs and struggled to hit the ball solidly late in the tournament.

Cabrera, meanwhile, had a national coming-out party with a dominant performance against Venezuela in which he struck out seven in four innings.

Perlozzo said the Dominican Republic's loss to Cuba on Saturday was the best thing for the Orioles' rotation. Cabrera probably would have pitched in today's Classic final if his country had advanced. And that would have made it harder to fit him neatly into the Orioles' schedule as the club points toward the first week of the season.

Perlozzo has not announced the order of his rotation, but based on the current scheduling, Rodrigo Lopez appears to be the favorite to start Opening Day.

"They've been trickling in, trickling in," the manager said of his starters. "It will be a lot better feeling when I can write those guys in the lineup."

Rocky return

Lopez made his first appearance since returning from the Classic yesterday and was tattooed early. He had trouble throwing strikes and was hit hard when he did.

Coco Crisp and Manny Ramirez lined doubles off Lopez in his first inning of work as he allowed two runs. He settled down after that, working two scoreless inning against Boston reserves.

"I definitely didn't feel 100 percent," Lopez said. "I think I'm still on West Coast time. I felt lazy on the mound. I definitely didn't have my best stuff."

Lopez will try to work five innings the next time he pitches.

"He's going to be fine," Perlozzo said.

The right-hander allowed three earned runs in seven innings pitched for Mexico.

Lopez entered the game in the sixth, relieving starter Erik Bedard. Bedard gave up a home run to Manny Ramirez in the second but pitched efficiently otherwise, allowing no walks and striking out three.

Perlozzo said he started Bedard because Lopez is better able to adapt to relieving, and he wanted both to throw before today's off day.

"Erik is, I don't know, I think he's built not to sit around," Perlozzo said. "It's much easier for him to start the game."

The manager praised Bedard's interaction with catcher Ramon Hernandez. The left-hander was known for working at a slow pace and shaking off signs last season.

"He had a nice, good tempo," Perlozzo said. "He attacked the hitters."

Penn a reliever?

Top pitching prospect Hayden Penn is expected to start the season as a minor league starter. But Perlozzo said yesterday that he might keep Penn around until it's clear when reliever Todd Williams will be able to pitch.

Perlozzo stopped short of saying he would use Penn in relief during the season. He said he would rather see the 21-year-old start full time. But if the team is short a reliever, "Hayden might fit in," he said.

Penn has pitched well this spring.

Williams is recovering from a calf injury that combined with a sore shoulder has pushed his spring schedule back several weeks.

Perlozzo said that barring any setbacks, Williams might throw on the side tomorrow, pitch batting practice Thursday and pitch in a game Sunday.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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