NEW YORK — — Injured Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts will play in his first extended spring training game Friday and could start a rehabilitation stint at one of the organization's minor league affiliates as early as June 10.
It's the best news the Orioles have gotten in weeks on Roberts, who hasn't played since April 9 because of a herniated disk in his back.
"He'll play five innings, play second base, get a few at-bats," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I got it scheduled for the next five or six days for him; I would think after that he'd go on rehab."
Roberts reported to the team's spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla., on Friday and took batting practice from both sides of the plate that day.
If all goes well in the extended spring training games and the rehab assignment, Roberts could return to the Orioles' lineup at some point during the team's interleague West Coast trip, which starts June 14 in San Francisco, or the homestand that follows, which begins June 22 with the Florida Marlins at Camden Yards.
"He's done very well," Trembley said. "He's hit every day live. He's taken ground balls. He's run the bases. He's going to start playing on Friday. That's good news."
In other injury news, outfielder Felix Pie (upper back strain) will begin a throwing program Friday in Sarasota. It will be his first baseball activity since he last played April 15.
"He's a ways away," Trembley said.
The Orioles entered Tuesday night's series opener with the New York Yankees last in the American League in walks (145) and pitches seen per plate appearance (3.43). In comparison, the Yankees were averaging 5.56 pitches seen per plate appearance.
That's one of the reasons roving instructor and former Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick has spent significant time this season working with certain minor leaguers on their approach at the plate.
"Right now, we've gone through the first six to eight weeks and we've tried to push the players as much as possible," director of player development John Stockstill said. "Mike Bordick is being utilized in a lot of different areas to take a guy and help him execute, not necessarily with deep pitch counts with everyone.
"We're earmarking certain people that need to take steps forward in their execution so when the big leagues need to call on them, they're ready to bunt, hit-and-run, move the guy over, take four, five or six pitches. We're not necessarily trying to take a lot of pitches, but we want them to execute the fundamentals and get deeper in the counts. Some players get it, and some don't. You can emphasize it and then watch a random player see five pitches in four at-bats. What we're trying to concentrate on is the key players that need a new approach."
While Triple-A Norfolk pitching prospect Jake Arrieta continues to impress team officials, the Orioles still have no plans to call him up unless there is a vacancy in the rotation. Arrieta allowed one run in eight innings at Rochester on Monday, improving to 6-2 with a 1.77 ERA in 11starts.
In his past three outings, the 24-year-old right-hander has surrendered just two earned runs, 16 hits and six walks while striking out 23 over 22 innings.
"We've gotten good reports on him," Trembley said. "I'm sure [president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail] and everyone else is aware of what he's doing and what the proper time frame is. I think you have to remember that he's not on the roster, but I know he's doing well.
"He's showing improvement. He's showing better command. His walks have gone down considerably his last few starts. That's probably the key for him. We'll have to see where that takes us. I know he's done a nice job. I guess he says he's ready. That's nice to hear. You need confidence to compete up here. I don't think he's lacking in that area, which is good for a young guy."
Moeller lands on feet
Former Orioles catcher Chad Moeller didn't have to worry long about finding a job after the Orioles released him during spring training. He quickly signed with the Yankees and is back in the major leagues -- albeit in a role that makes his place on the roster vulnerable when veteran Jorge Posada comes off the disabled list in the next day or two.
"It worked out well," Moeller said Tuesday. "I enjoyed Baltimore last year. These guys gave me a chance to come back, and I couldn't be more grateful. I have a lot of respect for the coaches and manager here."
Talk about a dramatic change in scenery. Moeller couldn't stick with a team that was never expected to finish better than fourth in the American League East, but he's on the roster of a team that is almost a lock to make the postseason.
"The guys in this clubhouse think they are going to win every game," he said. "If they don't, it's a shock."
Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.
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