Second baseman Brian Roberts will continue his rehabilitation assignment Monday at Double-A Bowie and could rejoin the Orioles by late this week.
Roberts, who hasn't played a game with the Orioles since April 9 because of a herniated disk in his back, was originally hoping to return by Aug. 1, but barring a setback, he'll beat that estimate by more than a week.
Interim manager Juan Samuel spoke to Roberts on Saturday, and the two-time All-Star told him that he needs about 15 more at-bats before returning to the Orioles' lineup. Roberts even joked that he was going to try to talk his way into the Orioles' lineup Monday for the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, but Samuel made it clear that's not going to happen.
"That's his wish, but obviously we have to wait and see how he's feeling after that," Samuel said. "He's missed a lot of time, and we got a little bit over two months left, so the league is very advanced. You'd hate to see him come in and try to force everything just because he wants to be here and end up having a major, major setback. In a way, he's going into spring training right now. This is kind of his spring training. The at-bats that he did not get in spring training, he's trying to get them here."
Roberts went 1-for-4 on Saturday for the Gulf Coast League Orioles, leaving him 9-for-19 (.474) in six games at that level. He's now expected to play four or five games for the Double-A Bowie Baysox before the Orioles decide how to proceed.
"It depends on all these games he's going to have," Samuel said. "Anything can happen, but he feels … anxious. He wants to be around, he wants to play. He feels that 15 at-bats should be good for him but again, we have to make a smart decision with the medical staff and our baseball people down there on what's best for him and what are they seeing, and then we could go from there."
Other O's close to return
Designated hitter Luke Scott (strained left hamstring) went 1-for-3 on Saturday in a Gulf Coast League game, and he's expected to be at Camden Yards on Monday. The Orioles haven't decided whether they'll activate him Monday or send him to Bowie for a few games, though Samuel said the plan is currently for him to get a few more at-bats against minor league pitching.
The Orioles will have to decide by Wednesday whether to activate reliever Michael Gonzalez (left shoulder strain) or keep him on the disabled list. Per league rules, rehab assignments for pitchers can last a maximum of 30 days, and Gonzalez will hit that mark this week.
Gonzalez allowed two runs and three hits in 2/3 of an inning for Triple-A Norfolk on Friday night. In 11 rehab outings, he's surrendered six runs, 13 hits and two weeks over 112/3 innings.
"He feels that his velocity is good. It was a concern earlier," Samuel said. "Some people think his velocity was where it was and his rehab is over, so we have to make a decision there. … We're going to have all these guys around. There are some decisions to make here [this] week."
Starter Kevin Millwood (right forearm strain) threw a bullpen session Friday, and Samuel said he'll be re-evaluated in a couple of days.
MacPhail's state of Orioles
President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail gave his annual "state of the Orioles address" to roughly a couple hundred season-ticket holders in the third base stands before Saturday's game.
MacPhail thanked the fans for sticking with the team and delineated three areas where the season has gone wrong: injuries, the regression of key young players and the failure of two of his three key free-agent acquisitions, presumably Garrett Atkins and Gonzalez.
Miguel Tejada, the other free-agent acquisition, was the subject of one of the 11 questions lobbed by the fans during the session. One man challenged MacPhail on why he signed Tejada and allowed Melvin Mora to leave.
"I haven't lost a moment's sleep on that decision, no offense to Melvin," said MacPhail, citing Tejada's leadership and energy. "There are some things I'll second-guess myself about, [but] that's not one."
Tejada, who was in the outfield stretching during the session, raised his hand in his traditional "spotlight" gesture in response to MacPhail's comments.
The questions from the fans ranged in subject from moving catcher Matt Wieters to first base (MacPhail said it wouldn't be considered for years) to finding a middle of the lineup bat (an obvious need, MacPhail said). Overall, however, the questions weren't very pointed, and MacPhail mentioned that in his closing comments.
"You were probably kinder to me than I deserved this year," MacPhail said.
Around the horn
Talks between the Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies about infielders Tejada and Ty Wigginton are dead, according to one source. The Phillies apparently are content to leave Placido Polanco at third base and use Wilson Valdez at second until Chase Utley returns. … Triple-A Norfolk first baseman Brandon Snyder (shoulder) will likely start a rehab assignment at short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Tuesday. … The first 10,000 kids age 14 or under to attend today's game against the Blue Jays will receive an Orioles batting helmet.
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