SARASOTA, Fla. — Orioles starter Justin Duchscherer took another step in the right direction Thursday in his attempt to come back from nearly two years of physical and emotional turmoil, completing another live batting practice session excited about his command and his comfort on the mound.
"I felt awesome," Duchscherer said. "Everything was good. I had a little trouble with my breaking ball a couple of days ago, and today it was great. I threw probably seven, eight of them, and I threw all of them for strikes."
Duchscherer, who has made just five starts since 2008 because of various injuries and ailments, is scheduled to throw against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla., in the Orioles' third Grapefruit League game
"I feel like I'm not behind," he said. "The last couple of years, I've been behind. Just to be on regular schedule with everybody else, to do what they're doing, feels good. ... When I'm healthy, this is where I should be. The last couple of years, I haven't had that luxury. I feel like I'm exactly where I should be to be ready when the season starts."
After finishing his live batting practice session, Duchscherer consulted with head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, which was enough to prompt some questions because of the pitcher's injury history. However, Duchscherer simply asked Bancells to help him out with some stretches.
The Orioles knew that they were playing a long shot when they signed Duchscherer as a free agent but obviously felt the potential upside was well worth the $700,000 he was guaranteed to come to camp. After moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation in Oakland in 2008, Duchscherer made 27 starts and had a 12-9 record and a 2.60 ERA.
Simon denied again in bid for release from Dominican jail
Alfredo Simon's appeal to be released from a jail in the Dominican Republic was rejected Thursday, according to Dionisio Soldevila of the Associated Press. It was the second time that Judge Yakaira Veras in the city of Puerto Plata has denied Simon release in lieu of bail, and the Orioles relief pitcher will remain in preventive detention.
Simon is the primary suspect in the New Year's Eve shooting death of Michael Esteban Castillo Almonte and has been jailed since Jan. 3. The Orioles placed him on the restricted list last week.
The Orioles had no comment on the judge's decision.
Second baseman Brian Roberts remained off the field for the second straight day with neck stiffness but said he might return to regular workouts Friday.
"It's better," Roberts said as he headed into the training room for treatment. "We're just trying to get it calmed down. Hopefully, I'll be out there tomorrow."
Manager Buck Showalter met with Bancells, then reported to the media that Roberts was "50 percent improved."
Showalter said that if Roberts is back in the next day or two, it would not affect his playing schedule at the start of the exhibition season.
"Not yet," he said. "We've still got a window. He wasn't going to play until the second spring game."
Hall of Famer Frank Robinson visited the Ed Smith Stadium training complex on Thursday morning at the request of manager Buck Showalter and addressed the team before the workout. The message was about the importance of making the most of training camp.
"He can command a room," Showalter said, "and you can tell he has a real affinity for the Orioles."
Though many of the players were not born when Robinson was fashioning his terrific playing career, Showalter said he sensed that they knew they were in the presence of someone very important, perhaps because he gave his lecture standing under the No. 20 plaque honoring him that is right in the middle of the row of retired Orioles numbers that decorate the east wall of the major league clubhouse.
"I know [Orioles clubhouse attendant] Jimmy [Tyler] was excited to have him sign that plaque," Showalter said.
Around the horn
Relief pitcher Josh Rupe was sent home early Thursday with the stomach flu. The medical staff has had to send several pitchers home with various minor bugs over the first 11 days of training camp, but Showalter said that the number of spring training sick days is pretty much on par with his previous camps. "We've been lucky in that we haven't really lost a day, because guys got sick on days they weren't scheduled to throw," Showalter said. ... Orioles minor league shortstop Manny Machado, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, has left agent Scott Boras and hired Dan Lozano, according to ESPN.com.