Roberts braces for New York

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Last visit to Yankee Stadium ended in agony

balls fly from Oriole Park

April 21, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts loves playing at Yankee Stadium, though he expects today's visit for the start of a three-game series to have a vastly different feel.

It was seven months ago yesterday when Roberts was helped off the Yankee Stadium field, wincing in pain and clutching his dangling left arm, severely damaged in a collision with Yankees base runner Bubba Crosby while he was covering first base on a bunt play. Today marks the All-Star second baseman's return to the scene where he first considered that his career could be over.

"Certainly, the last thing I remember is walking into that clubhouse and then into that training room and the doctors and all of that," Roberts said. "I'll have some interesting memories, definitely. But whether it will affect me, I don't think so."

Roberts has shown few ill effects from the injury, which required extensive ligament-transplant surgery 10 days later. He still has yet to hit a home run and he readily admits that his strength is not where it was last year. But Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said that the club wasn't expecting a power surge like the one in 2005 when Roberts hit eight home runs the first month - eclipsing his career high for a season - and finished with 18.

"He's doing a great job getting on base and moving the ball around," Perlozzo said. "That's kind of his job."

Roberts, who was 1-for-4 yesterday and is hitting .309 with 11 RBIs and five stolen bases (all the past three days), said all along that his return from a serious injury is all about breaking down physical and mental barriers. Today will give him a chance to break down yet another one.

"If I have to go and cover first in New York, it might be a little different," he said of his return to Yankee Stadium. "I don't have fears on the field. There are certain things that still don't feel great, some things that I think about. But as far as being concerned or scared, [covering first on a bunt] is the only play I really think about."

Newhan has surgery

Surgery to repair David Newhan's fractured right fibula went well yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital, trainer Richie Bancells said. Newhan injured the leg on Monday night sliding into second base.

"The worst-case scenario didn't present itself," Bancells said. "They fixed the fibula, put a plate on that. The part that they were worried about being ruptured was not ruptured. He had a deltoid ligament, which was torn. That just extends a little bit of time on to it, but it's not as bad as it could have been."

Bancells said that Newhan, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list on Wednesday, will be in a splint for two weeks and is expected not to put weight on his lower leg for four weeks.

"We'll see where we are in an eight- to 10-week time frame," Bancells said.

Launching pad

Cleveland hit two home runs yesterday, the 25th and 26th that Orioles pitching has allowed this season. That's the highest number in the American League. Asked about the rise in home run totals, especially at Camden Yards where the Orioles have played 13 of their 17 games, the Orioles cited different factors.

"I am just awestruck by how the ball is traveling here," pitcher Kris Benson said. "In talking to the hitters and stuff, they are kind of taken aback as to how well the ball is traveling here. It's just been one of those freak things as far as the climate. The air has been pretty conducive to the ball carrying. It's tough to keep it in the ballpark right now."

Outfielder Jay Gibbons and Perlozzo agreed that the ball is traveling farther at Camden Yards than it has in the past.

"Last year, I thought the park played very legitimate," Perlozzo said. "We had guys coming back to the bench hitting balls in the left-center-field gaps and being run down and [they'd] come back in the dugout and say, they hit everything of that. I don't know if it is the air, tighter-wound balls or bad pitches. It's probably a combination of all three of them."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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