Back injury likely to sideline Orioles' Roberts most of April

Leadoff hitter probably won't be ready to play April 25, when he can come off DL

April 12, 2010|By Dan Connolly | dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts received his second epidural shot for the herniated disk in his back Monday and likely will be sidelined most of April.

Before Monday's game, the Orioles placed their leadoff hitter on the 15-day disabled list with a strained abdominal, which he injured while sliding into second base during a steal in the first inning of Friday's home opener.

When Roberts hit the corner of second base on the steal, it jarred his ailing back, which had kept him out of all but six games during spring training.

"It probably irritated some nerves in areas of the lower back, which caused now the abdomen to hurt again, the back to flare up again," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

Roberts had his first epidural shot March 15 and could not participate in any physical activities for several days before easing his way back into baseball drills.

That timetable will be similar this time around, meaning Roberts likely will have to participate in a minor league rehabilitation assignment and almost certainly won't be ready to play April 25, when he is eligible to come off the DL (the move was retroactive to Saturday).

"He is to rest for the next four or five days, let the epidural take effect," Trembley said. "Then they will introduce some [exercise] activity. He will be out the entire 15 days and then a good possibility longer than 15 days because he would have to start doing some baseball activities."

Roberts, who had just two hits in his first 14 at-bats this season and batted .211 in 19 at-bats this spring, was not available for comment.

Trembley said the initial decision to put Roberts on the DL was made because Roberts felt the abdominal strain would keep him out "five or six or seven days. It was thought that this early in the year, instead of [going] that route, let's just back it up and take the 15 days and hopefully get it cleared up totally."

Turner gets call up

Second baseman Justin Turner didn't have long to wait at Triple-A Norfolk before rejoining the big leagues. Turner played in two games with the Tides, going 2-for-8 with two walks, before he was promoted when Roberts was placed on the DL.

"I knew Brian was hurt. I didn't know what was going to happen," said Turner, 25, who played in 12 games with the Orioles in September. "I didn't know if I was going to come up or someone else or what was going to happen. But once they put him on the DL, that's when I found out."

Turner said he spoke to Trembley, but his role wasn't defined.

"I'm just here to help the team win," he said. "Whether it's role-playing, pinch running, whatever they ask me to do, hopefully I get in there and make the most of my opportunities and help the Orioles get some Ws."

Said Trembley about Turner: "He's here as infield depth. The thought was we lost a second baseman so let's replace him with a second baseman."

Lugo's opportunity

When the Orioles acquired infielder Julio Lugo from the St. Louis Cardinals on April 1, part of the reason was as insurance in case Roberts was shelved for a long period of time.

Roberts was OK to play Opening Day, but a week into the season, he's on the DL. And Lugo, along with Turner and Ty Wigginton, will see increased time at second base.

"I needed an opportunity to play and to show people that I can play and I'm healthy enough to play every day," said Lugo, who has a .271 average in 11 seasons. "They are giving me a chance to go out there and prove myself. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm going to go out there, do my best and give everything I got."

Lugo was put into a difficult situation, joining a new team at the end of spring training.

The transition "was not easy because you have to come, look for a house, meet new teammates, learn a new stadium, a new city," he said. "It's never easy. But the most important thing is that I'm here and I'm going to have a chance to play."

Who bats leadoff?

With Roberts out, left fielder Felix Pie has batted leadoff Sunday and Monday, but Trembley said Pie won't necessarily always be atop the lineup.

"He probably makes the most sense,'' Trembley said, "but I can't say he's going to be the leadoff guy for 15 straight games while Roberts is gone."

Other possibilities include Lugo, center fielder Adam Jones and, potentially, shortstop Cesar Izturis.

Around the horn

Oakland Mills High graduate and former Virginia Tech basketball player Rayna DuBose threw out Monday's ceremonial first pitch. DuBose lost all her limbs when stricken with meningococcal meningitis in 2002. … Olympic swimming gold medalist and Fells Point resident Michael Phelps attended Monday's game. ... The Tampa Bay Rays have more wins against the Orioles than any other opponent in their history.

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