Roberts not close to return from back injury

Second baseman says he plans to play this season

May 02, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

More than three weeks since he last played, Orioles leadoff hitter Brian Roberts still has not resumed baseball activities, and he has no idea when he will. What the second baseman does feel confident about is that he'll return this year and won't need season-ending surgery to repair the herniated disk in his back.

"Surgery is not something that we've even discussed," said Roberts, who last played April 9. "Being out until October is not something that we've even discussed. Unfortunately, I don't know if it's three weeks or three months. I don't think it is three months. It definitely feels better than that Saturday after [the home opener]. But we're still waiting to see some improvement in other areas."

Roberts said he speaks regularly with back specialist Dr. Lee Riley and has been doing physical therapy. However, he said, Riley still hasn't given him any indication when he'll be cleared to perform baseball activities.

"I wish I could tell you something," Roberts said. "I wish I knew something, but I just don't right this second. When you have a goal or you have a date, it gives you something to shoot for, but we just don't really have that right this second."

Asked whether he regretted pushing himself in spring training so that he would be ready for Opening Day, Roberts said he wouldn't have done anything differently.

"I think we all took a calculated risk that if we'd go the way we went, it would be fine," Roberts said. "I don't think even necessarily if I gave it another week or two weeks, it would have not happened again. I don't know that any of us thought that. We did it that way in spring training, and this way, we'll obviously be a little more cautious and take it a little slower and, hopefully, it doesn't happen again."

Johnson reacts to demotion

Demoted reliever Jim Johnson has not been in the minor leagues for an extended period since the 2007 season, but that will be the furthest thing from his mind when he makes his first appearance for Triple-A Norfolk this week.

"It's going to be different," Johnson said in a phone interview. "I really don't know what it's going to be like until I toe the rubber the first couple of times. The only thing I can really control is, obviously, I need to get back as soon as I can to help the team out. That's the main objective. My main objective is not to sulk and beat myself up. My main objective is to get back to the big leagues and pitch effectively late in the game. I got to keep my eye on what the ultimate goal is. There's no sense in beating yourself [up] about it."

Johnson, one of the few reliable Orioles relievers over the past two seasons, was sent down to the minors Saturday with a 6.52 ERA over 10 appearances. In 9 2/3 innings, he allowed 15 hits and four walks while blowing three of four save chances.

Johnson said his struggles, which date to late last season, after he assumed the closer role for the traded George Sherrill, are a result of both confidence and mechanical problems.

"I'm not going to make any excuses, that's for sure," Johnson said. "I have to get right. I have to figure out what's going to work best for me and what's going to be that key factor. Obviously, when you're not having success, it's easy to call it a confidence thing. But I also know there's a little bit of a mechanical issue. We'll get it straightened out."

As for the speculation that Johnson would be better suited as a starting pitcher, which is what he was coming up through the minor leagues, he said, "I think that time has come and gone and been gone a long time ago."

Around the horn

Injured closer Michael Gonzalez (left shoulder strain) played catch from 60 feet Sunday, the first time he has thrown since going on the disabled list. Orioles manager Dave Trembley estimated that Gonzalez's throwing program will last about three weeks … Rehabilitating reliever Koji Uehara threw a scoreless inning for Norfolk on Sunday, allowing one hit on eight pitches, seven of which were strikes. … Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said Luis Lebron will likely have Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow, but the relief prospect will see Dr. James Andrews on May 10 to get a second opinion before making a final decision. … Former Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, who is rumored to be one of the candidates for the Orioles job if Trembley is fired, was at Sunday's game, scouting for the New York Mets. … Trembley said he and pitching coach Rick Kranitz have discussed bringing up one of the organization's pitching prospects and using him in the bullpen, but it's probably too early to make such a move. Asked specifically about promoting Jake Arrieta, Trembley said: "It's only a matter of time. I'm not saying it will be next week or next month, but he'll let everybody know."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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