Roberts nearing Grapefruit League debut

Second baseman takes batting and infield practice again, eyes Friday or Saturday return to lineup

March 25, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

SARASOTA, FLA. — — Two-time All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts took batting and infield practice again Wednesday, making it even more likely that he'll make his Grapefruit League debut Friday or Saturday.

The Orioles play the Minnesota Twins on Friday night and the Boston Red Sox on Saturday afternoon, with both games scheduled for Ed Smith Stadium.

"It's no secret you're getting to the point where you got to get into a game probably within the next few days," said Roberts, who has a herniated disk in his back. "I highly doubt it will be Thursday, but I can't say I'd rule out Friday or Saturday."

Roberts, who returned to Baltimore to get an epidural March 15, said he has been making progress and hasn't had any "ill effects" as he has increased the amount of baseball activity he has done in recent days.

"Things have been encouraging," he said. "I won't feel like everything is perfect until I play in a game, but it's certainly better than it was five weeks ago."

Roberts still expects to be in the lineup April 6, when the Orioles open the season against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Some have suggested giving the leadoff man frequent days off earlier in the season to rest his back, but Roberts scoffed at that notion Wednesday.

"If I'm going to be on the roster, and I'm going to be there, then I'm going to play," Roberts said. "I'd never put myself in that situation or put my team in that situation. If I'm well enough to play on Opening Day, I'm well enough to play every day. If I'm not well enough, I'm not well enough. But if I'm there, I'm going to play every day."

Tejada's probation extended
Miguel Tejada's probation for misleading Congress about an ex-teammate's use of performance-enhancing drugs will be extended for an additional six months after the Orioles third baseman failed to complete the required community service.

Tejada's probation was set to expire today, but prosecutors say he still has 44 hours of community service to complete. Tejada was sentenced last March to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service and assessed a $5,000 fine.

Magistrate Judge Alan Kay extended Tejada's probation at a hearing in federal court in Washington on Wednesday.

Stockstills switching roles
The Orioles are expected to announce by Friday a shuffling of front office duties, involving player development and international scouting.

David Stockstill, who has been the director of minor league operations since November 2004 but saw his title changed to director of player development in 2008, will become the director of international operations. He will be responsible for the procurement and placement of all international players.

His brother, John Stockstill, who was hired in 2005 to oversee the club's major league and professional scouting but was most recently the international scouting director, will assume farm director duties as well as other unspecified responsibilities.

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail declined to comment on the imminent change, which was first reported by foxsports.com. However, it's not a radical move by any means because the Stockstills have essentially been sharing duties, with David overseeing operations in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Neither Stockstill returned calls seeking comment.

The move, according to sources, is also not a reflection of the organization's disappointment with either the player development or scouting departments. The club just felt that the arrangement was a better fit with the duties that David and John Stockstill were already taking on.

Reimold in left
Nolan Reimold was back in left field for Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, and Dave Trembley said he's no longer concerned about the health of Reimold's ankle after surgery, though the Orioles' manager apparently still has questions about his durability.

"What I am concerned about is: How are you going to be able to bounce back on back-to-back days?" Trembley said. "We need to find out how much he can play."

So, is he concerned that Reimold has struggled at the plate throughout spring training? "I'm not concerned about his hitting," Trembley said. "You are what you are."

Reimold is hitting better of late. He had an RBI single and a double Wednesday and has now hit safely in three straight games.

Still no timetable for Uehara
While Koji Uehara said his strained left hamstring is improving, he still isn't sure when he'll be able to pitch in a Grapefruit League game again.

"In terms of when I'll be back on the mound, I haven't set that date," Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang. "I'm conferring with the trainers and deciding the schedule for the day, basically. Obviously, from the day I got hurt, it's gotten better. My goal is to be on the Opening Day roster, but at the same time, I don't want to rush too much to make the team. I don't want to hurt the team."

Uehara, who is being counted on to serve as one of closer Mike Gonzalez's top setup men, hurt his hamstring last Thursday. He has pitched in six games this spring, allowing one earned run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Around the horn
Michael Aubrey (sore right groin) said he expects to get medical clearance to resume playing within the next couple of days. Aubrey has been limited to six games this spring. Right-handed pitcher Luis Noel arrived in Sarasota on Sunday, took his physical and has joined minor league camp. Noel, 22, missed all of last year because of visa issues in the Dominican Republic.

Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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