SARASOTA, Fla. — - For the first time this spring, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail acknowledged that the club is concerned that second baseman Brian Roberts might not be ready for the start of the season.
Roberts, who has a herniated disk in his back and then got sick as a result of the medication he was taking to ease the inflammation, hasn't played in a game all spring, and now he has been shut down until at least Thursday.
"I talked to Richie Bancells, our head athletic trainer, about it again today, and at this time he still thinks Brian is going to be ready for Opening Day, but you have to be concerned now," MacPhail said. "To me, you get 10 days into spring training before you start really paying attention, but the clock is starting to be an issue. ... By now, we have to start thinking about, 'What if he isn't ready?' "
MacPhail said he might start having his scouts look at who is available on the trade market along with exploring internal options.
Roberts started taking an oral medication Sunday and became ill. He reported to Ed Smith Stadium on Tuesday but spent much of the day in the training room. The two-time All-Star will be re-evaluated Thursday, but he's at least a week away from getting into a game.
"Somebody asked me how many at-bats I thought people needed. I said 25 to 30," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I asked [hitting coach Terry Crowley] the same thing, and he said, 'A guy that plays every day needs 25 to 30.' I'm still confident that we can get him that, but I'd like to see him on the field. But you can't get him on the field now that he's sick."
MacPhail not happy
The Orioles made five errors Tuesday in their 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, their sixth straight defeat, leaving MacPhail visibly unhappy.
"I don't like to lose games in spring training. More importantly than that, we have to tighten up the defense," MacPhail said. "You can't play defense like this. That probably concerns me more than the won-lost record. Poor Alberto Castillo had to get eight outs in that [seventh] inning. That's got to tighten up."
The Orioles have made nine errors in seven Grapefruit League games, and that doesn't count the seven miscues they made in the intrasquad game March 1.
Catcher Chad Moeller and third baseman Josh Bell each had two errors Tuesday, and shortstop Blake Davis had one, contributing to four unearned runs.
"For me, coming in in the sixth inning after sitting there, it's not an excuse, but it's kind of hard to get going," said Bell, the organization's top position prospect. "You kind of have to find ways to get yourself going. It was just one of those days. You have the good days, and you got to take the bad days."
Trembley expressed hope that Bell will learn a lesson from his defensive struggles, which hurt pitchers Jake Arrieta and Castillo.
"It's not because we haven't worked at it," Trembley said. "We spend 20 minutes every day taking ground balls and doing individual defense. Mistakes are part of the game. Today was an unfortunate game for him and for Blake. They had routine plays and didn't make [them]."
Cal, the manager?
In an interview with Bloomberg Radio, Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
said he has thought more about becoming a manager, possibly after his son heads to college in a couple of years. Ryan Ripken is a sophomore in high school.
"I valued that time frame, and I wanted to be there, and I'm starting to think about it a little more now," Ripken said. "When my boy goes off to college, if there's a time to come back to the game, maybe that's the time."
The cover boy
Orioles second-year catcher Matt Wieters will be featured on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, which hits newsstands today.
Wieters is the first Oriole to get the distinction since Roberto Alomar on Oct. 14, 1996, after he helped the team beat the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series.