As sky falls, O's sure to get hurt by the debris

12 straight losing seasons, a raft of injuries and a pitcher playing Hamlet

March 25, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd

If you're an Orioles fan, it's never too early to panic.

Why, panic is basically built into your DNA. It's what 12 straight losing seasons have done to you.

At the slightest hint of bad news, your hands start to sweat and your brain is wired to think: Uh-oh, here we go again.

Which brings us to spring training 2010.

As you might have heard, things are not going real well down in Sarasota, Fla. - at least not when it comes to injuries.

In fact, the trainer's room looks like your favorite bakery on Sunday morning. Players practically have to take a number to get treatment.

Let's go down the list of Orioles who are in less than tiptop shape right now.

There's Brian Roberts with a herniated disk in his back.

There's Nolan Reimold with a sore Achilles tendon.

There's Koji Uehara with a tweaked hamstring - again.

There's Brad Bergesen, who's coming off last season's shin injury and the shoulder he hurt filming a "This is Birdland" commercial, my second-favorite Orioles injury of all time.

(My all-time favorite O's injury: outfielder Marty Cordova falling asleep in a tanning bed in 2002 and not being able to play because of a burned face. The doctors told him to stay out of the sun. You can't make this stuff up.)

Finally, there's Jeremy Guthrie, whose confidence is ruptured because he's getting shelled by Grapefruit League batters.

OK, I realize that's not technically an injury.

But when your projected No. 2 starter, who lost 17 games last season, is racked with more doubt than Hamlet, it can be as damaging as a sore arm.

The Roberts injury is the one creating the most concern, of course.

That's because the veteran second baseman plays such a big role on this team: leadoff batter, doubles-hitting machine, slick fielder, veteran presence in the clubhouse, etc.

But it's also because when you're dealing with back pain, you never know what's going to happen.

Here we are, 12 days before the season opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, and Roberts has yet to play in a spring training game.

He has rested the back, taken anti-inflammatories for the pain and stiffness, and flown back to Baltimore for an epidural.

The Orioles have done everything except have a witch doctor chant over him.

But not much seems to have worked. And Roberts has seemed discouraged at times, which is only natural with the season fast approaching.

Now the word is he might play Friday against the Minnesota Twins.

Or Saturday against the Boston Red Sox.

Or ... he might not play at all.

Actually, playing either the Friday or Saturday game makes sense, because both are at Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium, which means he doesn't have to endure a long bus ride with that tricky back.

Meanwhile, everyone - including Roberts - is sick of talking about the back. I know I'm sick of hearing about it.

But the Orioles, to their credit, are working on Plan B in case Roberts fails to heal completely or is relegated to part-time status.

Plan B is sort of hush-hush. But I guess I can let you in on it.

It involves president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail picking up the phone, dialing every other club in baseball and screaming: "Please! We need a second baseman!"

Speaking of all these injuries, I hate to be a downer and point this out, but the Orioles have an absolutely brutal schedule to start the season.

Over the first five weeks, they play six games against the Rays, go on a seven-game trip to Oakland and Seattle - hmm, a long flight to the West Coast, that's good for a bad back - and play six games each against the New York Yankees and Red Sox.

Think they won't need a healthy 25-man roster to get through that stretch?

In the meantime, Dave Trembley must turn pale every time head athletic trainer Richie Bancells appears in his office with an injury update.

The Orioles manager says he's not panicking over all the walking wounded.

With Orioles Nation, it might be a different story.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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