Back pain won't slow Roberts, club says

Hearing set today on Orioles' $31.2 million deal with Sarasota

February 19, 2010|By Peter Schmuck and Jeff Zrebiec

SARASOTA, Fla. — — Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts has been dealing with lower-back pain, but Orioles officials said Thursday that they believe he'll be able to hit the ground running when full squad workouts begin next week.

"He told me when he's here he'll be a full go," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

There had been Internet speculation that Roberts suffers from kidney stones, but Trembley said he talked to Roberts and was told he had a back spasm.

President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail seemed unconcerned that Roberts might come to camp with any restrictions. "We had our medical review [Wednesday] and we're not anticipating that Brian will be limited," he said.

Roberts is still at home in Arizona but is expected to arrive at camp in the next few days. Attempts to reach him by telephone were unsuccessful.

Sarasota hearing today
A public hearing will be held today to discuss the Orioles' $31.2 million deal that will make Sarasota and the Ed Smith Stadium complex the team's long-term spring training home. The hearing is in response to a lawsuit, brought by Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government and Citizens for Sunshine, alleging county officials violated open-meeting laws in their negotiations with the Orioles.

While the lawsuit is not believed to be a serious threat to the deal, it will likely delay the start of the renovation project, scheduled to begin in early April when spring training ends.

"We'll work our way through it," said Sarasota County Deputy administrator Dave Bullock, who was the lead negotiator for the county in the deal. "In two years, nobody will be thinking about this. They'll have what looks like a brand new stadium, brand new clubhouses, brand new fields. They won't even remember this ripple in the pond.

"Every time somebody sues us, we take it seriously. But this whole thing has been well thought out, properly advertised. Under the Florida Sunshine laws, we believe we complied with every requirement. We'll work it out in court, and in the end we'll prevail."

Joe Barbetta, chairman of the county commission, acknowledged concerns that the litigation could make finishing the stadium before next February impossible.

"We'd hate to see it delayed because we're on such a tight schedule," he said.

TV picture clearing
The Orioles and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network have not picked a replacement for color analyst Buck Martinez, but they won't have to make any decisions about Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer for some time.

Thorne, according to a source, has agreed to a new four-year contract, and Palmer signed a five-year deal before the 2009 season. That means they'll be in the booth through 2013.

There has been no word on the No. 3 guy, but it still seems likely it will be Mike Flanagan, though several possible candidates have been interviewed.

Uehara officially in bullpen
It has been no secret for months, but Trembley officially announced Thursday that Koji Uehara will compete only for a bullpen role this spring. He met with Uehara on Thursday to make sure they were on the same page.

"I think it's in his best interests and the best way to get him through the entire season," Trembley said. "There will be more opportunities for him to be successful and for us to win. He agrees with that. Koji has been nothing but tremendous with me. He has been very cooperative. He's a team guy."

Around the horn
Alfredo Simon, who underwent Tommy John surgery early last season, says his arm feels great and he's ready to compete for a role on the major league staff. If he succeeds, that would be a swift recovery from elbow ligament reconstruction. "I just feel great," he said. "I feel like I'm ready to go." ... Reliever Will Ohman, the last free agent signed by the Orioles this offseason, said he chose the team because it represented his best opportunity to re-establish himself after a difficult 2009 season. "It's kind of a homecoming," he said. "There are a lot of guys and coaches from the Cubs. I'm looking forward to working with [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] again."

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