As Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts attempted to come back from a herniated disk in his back this spring, he said his final test would be stealing a base and emerging 100 percent.
He has stolen two in two games this week and hurt himself on each attempt, including Friday, when he didn't return after the first inning because of a strained abdominal.
He slid headfirst into second, later scored the Orioles' first run in their 7-6 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and then didn't return to the field in the top of the second.
"You lose Roberts in a game like this, everyone has to rally. It's devastating for them, your leadoff guy who sets the table when you're down and steals a base," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I think it's an abdominal strain. That's all I know. I think the corner of the bag hit him. [Athletic trainer] Richie Bancells came to me, and we had to take him out of the game."
Roberts left the clubhouse before the media entered Friday evening. Trembley said he didn't know long the injury will keep Roberts shelved.
In Roberts' first steal this season, on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Roberts jammed his wrist and banged his head against an infielder's knee while sliding into second. He remained in that game.
Julio Lugo replaced Roberts at second base and in the lineup Friday. Lugo, along with Ty Wigginton, would fill in if Roberts has to miss a few days. Abdominal strains tend to linger, and if Roberts is forced to the disabled list, the club could promote Triple-A second baseman Justin Turner, who had a strong spring.
Triple-A shortstop Robert Andino, who also can play second, was taken off the 40-man roster, and so he is a less likely candidate for promotion.
The bigger question is who would leadoff for the Orioles in Roberts' stead. Possibilities include Felix Pie, Cesar Izturis, Adam Jones and Lugo.
A gutsy send
With two outs in the eighth and the score tied at 5, Pie, a pinch runner, broke toward second as soon as Izturis singled into left-center field. The fleet-footed Pie kept running, and when he rounded third base, coach Juan Samuel waved him home.
At first, it appeared Pie would be thrown out by several feet, but Toronto second baseman John McDonald's relay throw short-hopped catcher John Buck.
Buck couldn't hold on to the ball, and a sliding Pie grazed his left hand over the plate for the go-ahead run.
"Pie makes a tremendous base-running play," Trembley said, "hustling all the way."
Pie (strained left rotator cuff) participated in baseball drills Friday, and Trembley said he expects the outfielder will be in the starting lineup this weekend against the Blue Jays. He hasn't started since reinjuring his left shoulder making a throw in the season opener Tuesday.
"I can't tell you which day, but he will play in this series," Trembley said.
Around the horn
The Orioles set a Camden Yards Opening Day attendance record with an announced 48,891. It broke last year's record of 48,607. ... The Orioles are 37-20 in home openers all time and 13-6 at Camden Yards. ... Trembley said he hasn't heard that right-hander Koji Uehara (left hamstring strain) is throwing from a mound. He believes the reliever is still doing flat-ground work. Therefore, there is no timetable for his return from the DL. ... Umpires attendant Ernie Tyler, 85, participated in his 51st home opener. ... Before the second inning, the Orioles showed a video tribute to Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Mike Cuellar, who died April 2 of stomach cancer. A moment of silence was held before the game for former Orioles players and staff members who have died in the past year. ... The Orioles drew seven walks Friday after walking a total of eight times in their first three games.