O's MacPhail sees ailments, calls for keeping calm

No cause for alarm about Roberts' disk, other troubles, he says

February 24, 2010|By Peter Schmuck

SARASOTA, Fla. — — Since I sense a certain level of trepidation among Orioles fans after the revelation that Brian Roberts has been grappling with a lower back injury, I thought I would check in with Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and ask him the question on everybody's mind.

Should we be worried?

I know I am. When two members of the projected starting rotation are on restricted activity and the $40 million starting second baseman arrives in camp and drops the term "small herniated disk" in his first interview, it's hard not to wonder whether the enchilada is going to hold together long enough to put it on the plate.

MacPhail said he isn't stressing about it, at least not yet.

"There's nothing on our radar screen from any of the medical staff where we're getting a heads-up to be concerned about them," MacPhail said as the Orioles wrapped up their first full-squad workout at their Ed Smith Stadium training complex. "There is nothing, at present, that is going to leak into the season. Subject to change, but that's where we are."

Don't read too much into that "subject to change" thing. MacPhail would hedge a bet on the sun's coming up. He seemed fairly confident that none of the three early injury issues would linger deep into training camp, and there was evidence to support that on all fronts Tuesday.

Brad Bergesen threw off flat ground and is getting close to testing his shoulder from the practice mound. The Orioles can't assume anything until he is throwing at full velocity without pain, but the early returns appear encouraging.

Chris Tillman, who came up with a sore back after falling asleep on the couch last week, also played catch and participated in all drills during the first full-squad workout. He is scheduled to resume throwing off a mound today and doesn't seem the least bit concerned.

Even Roberts quickly put a happy face on Monday's bad news, reporting on Tuesday that he was not very far behind his teammates after taking ground balls and taking part in most of the workout. He even did some tee work and hit some soft tosses in the indoor batting cages, but probably won't take live batting practice until next week.

If that wasn't encouraging enough, the afternoon got a little brighter when Miguel Tejada took the field for the first time since re-signing with the O's and bounced through his first workout as the team's new third baseman.

Still, you have to wonder what went through MacPhail's mind when he first heard that Roberts - whose $40 million guaranteed contract extension is just going into effect - was dealing with a potentially chronic back injury.

Let's just say Andy probably had the same initial reaction as many of the Orioles fans posting on the various blogs and message boards, except that MacPhail is required to watch his language.

"It wouldn't have mattered who it was if it was one of your regular players," he said. "No offense to anyone, but the last people you want to see on any given day is the medical staff. If Richie [Bancells, the trainer] starts walking toward you, that's a clue that it's not going to be as good a day as you were hoping it would be."

Of course, everybody knew coming into this training camp that the only real news probably would be bad news. The Orioles arrived in Sarasota with a largely set roster, so there figures to be relatively little job competition. That is, unless some unexpected openings develop, and that kind of thing doesn't usually spring from happy circumstance.

The revelations of the past week haven't exactly added up to the sum of all fears, but they certainly gave the pessimist wing of the Orioles fan base something to chew on. There already is chatter about who might replace Roberts at second base and Bergesen in the rotation. I would guess Ty Wigginton and David Hernandez, but it's way too early to speculate about any of that.

MacPhail, as always, is preaching calm.

"We don't have any reason right now to think we need to make any adjustments," he said.

Let's hope he's right.

Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "Sportsline" on WBAL (1090 AM), and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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