CLEARWATER, Fla. — — When it comes to second baseman Brian Roberts' health this spring, progress has been measured incrementally.
So when Roberts faced live pitching from both sides of the plate Sunday morning and felt no problems in his back, it qualified as a big step in the right direction for the Orioles and their veteran leadoff hitter.
Manager Dave Trembley hopes the news means that Roberts, who had an epidural injection in his back last week to reduce the pain from a herniated disk, will be able to make his 2010 exhibition debut some time in the next week.
"I'm hopeful," Trembley said. "Roberts hit live BP right-handed and left-handed with no problems. That was encouraging."
Roberts is the only position player who will not make the three-hour trip to Jupiter for back-to-back games against the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday and Wednesday, but could start playing soon after that.
"Let's get him going next week," Trembley said.
More cuts announced
Six more players have been assigned to the minor league side of the Ed Smith Stadium complex and will join that camp Tuesday.
Catchers Caleb Joseph, Luis Bernardo and the injured Michel Hernandez, infielders Blake Davis and Miguel Abreu and outfielder Matt Angle were reassigned, though they won't have to go far to move into their new lockers. The minor league locker room is about 40 feet from the major league clubhouse.
"I told each of them, 'You're not going down, you're going across to the other clubhouse,' " Trembley said.
That's quite a switch from a year ago, when the minor league players who were reassigned had to drive roughly three hours to get to the Twin Lakes Park minor league compound.
Joseph, for one, loved his first opportunity to train with the major leaguers.
"It was incredible," he said. "It is something you look forward to and you anticipate when they tell you back in late January, You don't know what it is going to be like, you have all these dreams and visions about what it is going to be like. And when you get here it's 10 times better."
Gonzalez pitches an inning
Closer Mike Gonzalez
(sore back) pitched for the first time in a regular Grapefruit League game since March 8 and fared well. He faced four batters in the seventh inning, retiring three of them. His only blemish was a two-out double by Phillies minor leaguer Ozzie Chavez
"Every time I'm going out there, I'm feeling a little better. Getting more into my rhythm and timing," Gonzalez said. "I definitely feel like the ball's coming out a lot better out of my hand. It's definitely a good time to start getting in a groove right now."
Gonzalez said he's not completely back to feeling normal, but he is getting close.
"I'm probably 95 percent with this back problem. I feel good about my next outing," Gonzalez said. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to be fine, 100 percent."
Around the horn
With a single in the fifth inning, outfielder Nolan Reimold
broke his 0-for-22 skid. He also had a sacrifice fly in the third. … The Orioles will have their lone off day of the spring today. … David Hernandez
was scheduled to throw 75 pitches in a minor league camp game on Sunday in Sarasota. Jason Berken
and Mark Hendrickson
were scheduled to throw 50. … With the announced cuts, the Orioles are now down to 48 players in big league camp.