Roberts steps up to the plate

Batting practice starts slow, picks up oomph as he gets to the end

March 01, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

SARASOTA, FLA. — - A day after Brad Bergesen took another important step in his recovery by throwing his first formal bullpen session in seven months, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts did the same by stepping into the batter's box.

Roberts, who has been slowed this spring by a herniated disk in his back, took live batting practice Sunday for the first time in five months. The leadoff man started with some light swings, but by the end of the workout, he was swinging aggressively at pitches thrown by third base coach Juan Samuel.

"I did get more comfortable," Roberts said. "Certainly at first, you're probably a little timid, but it got better as it went along. I always do BP fairly easy. I tried to increase the intensity a little as I went. But most importantly, just trying to get your body moving in that direction at a little higher rate than off a tee or [soft toss]."

Roberts, who has been taking ground balls and doing conditioning from the day he arrived at camp, will try to increase his hitting activity each day. Manager Dave Trembley said it's far too early to project when he'll be able to play in an exhibition game.

"We're moving right along," Trembley said. "The last phase is to hit live, and it was good to get that started today."

Guthrie gets nod
Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles' Opening Day starter for the past two regular seasons, will get the assignment for Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium.

"I'm excited," Guthrie said. "It's fun to be able to pitch in a game against opposing hitters. It's been five months or so."

Closer Mike Gonzalez and reliever Will Ohman are also expected to make their Orioles debuts Wednesday.

Brian Matusz will start Thursday against the Rays in Port Charlotte, followed by Chris Tillman on Friday at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kevin Millwood, who will throw a simulated game today, will make his Orioles debut Saturday in Lakeland against the Detroit Tigers. Guthrie will then make his second start on Sunday versus the Boston Red Sox.

Scott's on first
Orioles designated hitter Luke Scott was a busy man in Sunday's workout, taking ground balls at first base and then fly balls in the outfield. Trembley said that Scott, who started eight games at first last year, 24 in left field and 89 at DH, will be used in a similar way in 2010.

"If I'm going to play him at first base, just like if I'm going to play anybody else at another position, I think you're going to have to give them time and practice," Trembley said. "I've tried to get Luke the fundamentals at first base as well as the outfield. He'll play some first base."

Uehara looks sharp
Reliever Koji Uehara emerged from his second live batting practice session Sunday pleased with the improvements that he has made.

"I was able to command the ball better than last time," Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang.

Uehara, who relied on his fastball and splitter, acknowledged that he doesn't have to push himself too early in camp as he did last year when he was preparing to start for the club.

Around the horn
The Orioles received a minor scare in Sunday's workout when center fielder Adam Jones was hit in the right leg by a pitch from Alberto Castillo during live batting practice. Jones was walking with a slight limp but said he'll be fine. … First baseman Michael Aubrey received a couple of stitches in his back Thursday and hasn't been a full participant in workouts since. But that could change within the next couple of days. … Trembley said he's hoping to pair up shortstop Cesar Izturis and third baseman Miguel Tejada as much as possible during Grapefruit League games. … A day after his first bullpen session in seven months, Bergesen said that he felt just the normal soreness and nothing out of the ordinary. … Tillman and Jake Arrieta will start in today's intrasquad game.

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