Source: Benson to try rehab first on rotator cuff

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Pitcher to put off surgery for now after getting third medical opinion

February 20, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles pitcher Kris Benson will put off surgery to repair his torn right rotator cuff and instead undergo a rehabilitation process, which could last a month, in a final attempt to pitch in 2007, a baseball source said last night.

Dr. James Andrews examined Benson's shoulder yesterday in Birmingham, Ala. It was the third opinion sought by the Orioles' pitcher. A member of the New York Mets' medical staff recently recommended that Benson have surgery, but Andrews provided a small glimmer of hope.

If the rehab doesn't change the condition of Benson's shoulder, he will have the surgery and most likely miss the season. Waiting a few more weeks wouldn't delay his return.

The Orioles signed Steve Trachsel as a free agent to replace Benson in the rotation.

New outlook for Roberts

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts showed up at camp yesterday morning with a new beard and a new outlook on his health.

He can attempt to keep only one of them.

The team's facial hair policy requires Roberts to use a razor, but that's a small sacrifice. Unlike last year's camp, he's no longer restricted in practices because of his surgically repaired left elbow. And he's in better shape after being cleared to work out during the winter.

"I feel like a whole different person," said Roberts, who didn't appear in an exhibition game last year until March 21. "I hadn't picked up a bat or anything yet. I just learned to catch all over again. I was about as weak as I could possibly be. But it feels good. I'm anxious to get going and go through a season healthy again."

As if the elbow weren't enough of an issue, Roberts also missed 21 games with a strained groin muscle. Asked if he were 100 percent healthy at any stretch of the season, he said, "Never."

"There's no way to ever get to 100 percent when you start at 50. It's impossible," he said. "I really didn't start feeling great again until probably around December. But everybody is going to play hurt at some point in his career. I learned a lot. I felt like I figured out how to get by and do the things that I needed to do to help the team. But it was frustrating at times."

Roberts and the Orioles avoided arbitration by reaching agreement on a one-year contract, and vice president Jim Duquette said the sides have engaged in "more general discussions lately" on a long-term extension. Roberts indicated yesterday that he won't let negotiations drag too far into the season.

"Both sides want to get something done, so we'll make an effort and if it doesn't work at a certain point, we'll probably do that," Roberts said.

Millar works the room

Kevin Millar was in midseason form yesterday when it came to working the clubhouse, firing barbs at anyone within range and drawing laughs from every corner. He gave a thumbs-down to Jay Gibbons' new hairstyle and had an opinion on why Roberts grew a beard.

"Times were tough this offseason," Millar said. "He's going through that contract stuff, so he slept on the streets."

As for whether he'll be the regular first baseman after the Orioles signed Aubrey Huff and held onto Gibbons, Millar said performance will determine his status.

"Staying healthy, doing your job and having good at-bats, of course it will," he said. "You can't come out here and hit .040 and go 1-for-39 and make an impact. But there's also a track record. Sam [Perlozzo] knows who I am and what I can do. He knows I can pull the baseball, and that's it."

Japanese pitcher unimpressive

The Orioles worked out Japanese pitcher Kazuaki Minami, 25, a right-hander who appeared in two games with the Yomiuri Giants in 2004. He threw on the side as a variety of team officials and coaches watched, but didn't seem overly impressive. A few observers estimated that his fastball didn't touch 90 mph, and his command was spotty. "We'll know in the next day or so what we'll do," Duquette said. "If nothing else, it was a worthwhile gesture to open up the lines of communication with the Japanese market."

Trebelhorn returns home

Orioles bench coach Tom Trebelhorn has left the team and returned home to Arizona because of an illness in his family, an Orioles spokesman confirmed.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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