Roberts edges close to return


Leadoff hitter hopes to leave DL by midweek, Friday at the latest


The urge to play tugs hard at Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts.

So does the understanding that he must be patient, no matter how difficult the task.

Roberts said it's doubtful that he'll come off the disabled list today, when he's eligible to rejoin the 25-man roster. He projected tomorrow as a possibility, or maybe Wednesday.

"Friday, at the latest, I would think," he said. "I think tomorrow is kind of pushing it."

Whatever the outcome, Roberts should be on the field this week.

"I'm doing more and more every day," Roberts said, "but we're still going to try to be smart."

Roberts, the team's leadoff hitter, went on the disabled list April 30 with a strained left groin, an injury he suffered while stealing third base the previous day. He has batted .371 over his past 18 games.

The injury is healing. Pain comes from not playing.

"This is killing me," he said. "It's not fun, that's for sure. I'd love to play, but I want to be smart."

Roberts ran 10 sprints Saturday, though not at full speed, and did more running yesterday. He has also hit the past two days.

In preparation for his return to second base, Roberts has tested his lateral movement by fielding balls rolled to him.

"We need him healthy," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "We can't let him go out there if he's not ready to go and lose him for an extended period. If he misses the Boston series and has a day off Thursday, hopefully he can be ready for Washington.

"Obviously, it was more severe than we thought, but that's one of those things that can nag on forever if you don't get it right."

Birkins extends scoreless string

He arrived with little fanfare, but reliever Kurt Birkins still hasn't allowed a run in four appearances since the Orioles purchased his contract from Triple-A Ottawa on May 2.

Birkins hasn't been scored upon in seven innings. He retired all four batters he faced yesterday after replacing an injured Daniel Cabrera to start the fifth.

"I'm just trying not to do anything different than I was doing down there," he said. "That's one of the things the coaches and everyone down there told me. If your stuff's good enough to get hitters out down there, it's good enough to get hitters out up here. You've just got to make sure you don't make any mistakes. I'm going after hitters like I would normally do."

But at different points in the game.

Birkins was a starter at Ottawa and had to adjust to warming up without pitching.

"I've kind of settled into my role now," he said. "When that phone rings, I'll know if it's for me, or sometimes I'll know who else it's going to be for."

Said Perlozzo: "He attacks the hitters, throws strikes, doesn't seem afraid, and he seems to keep some righties off balance a little bit."

Millar makes opportunity count

Kevin Millar didn't start for the second straight day, his duties as the designated hitter taken again by Javy Lopez, his chance to end an 11-for-62 skid put on hold.

That didn't mean Perlozzo was losing confidence in Millar, whose single in the ninth completed a four-run rally.

"I certainly have not given up on Kevin Millar," Perlozzo said. "I know he's a gamer on our team and in the dugout and on the field. Everyone seems to have had an opportunity at some point in time to take a job, and I'll let Javy take a shot at it for a little while and see what he can do. We'll mix Kevin in when we can and see what happens.

"He'll be fine. We're certainly counting on him throughout the season."

Said Millar: "I hate not playing. I'll just keep working. I'll keep hitting and hitting and hitting until it clicks in and I won't be on the bench anymore.

"It's a long season. I just hope 80 at-bats don't dictate the situation. The season isn't over in May."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.