SARASOTA, Fla. — Despite Brian Roberts' missing a third straight workout Friday because of a stiff neck, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said the club isn't yet concerned about the status of the team's second baseman and leadoff man.
"I don't have any information that would suggest that it's a concern at the present time," MacPhail said.
Roberts, who has been sidelined by muscle spasms that he says are unrelated to the herniated disk in his back that limited him to 59 games last year, has been getting daily treatment, and he says he could play if it were the regular season.
"It's getting better every day. It's definitely better than it was a couple days ago," Roberts said. "It's the time of the year where you just want to get it completely gone before you go back out there again."
Orioles officials have acknowledged they understand the attention being paid to Roberts' health, especially after the two-time All-Star missed about 31/2 months last season. However, manager Buck Showalter said the team's athletic training staff is confident that they "got their arms around what he's dealing with." Showalter and MacPhail also said that no further testing is planned for Roberts.
Asked whether he's optimistic that Roberts will be ready to participate in Saturday's workout, MacPhail said, "That's my expectation, but at the same time, it's Feb. 25 and we've got a long way to go."
Meanwhile, Roberts, 33, was noncommittal.
"I don't really try to guess about tomorrow," he said. "To tell you the truth, it probably hasn't really been my call. It's a group effort. Everybody's kind of collaborating to make the right decision. You don't want something that's two days to last 10 days. If one more day does you more good than harm, then you take one more day."
Lee takes first hacks
With Showalter watching nearby and bench coach Willie Randolph throwing from in front of the mound, Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee took live batting practice for the first time since he had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb in November.
"A lot of nerves," Lee said. "I've never had surgery. I didn't know how it was going to respond. I was a little anxious about it. I got a lot of work to do, but it's a good first step."
Lee hit several line drives, though none cleared the fence at Field Two on a day when the wind was blowing in. The important thing was that Lee said he felt no pain when he hit the ball on the sweet spot. He did acknowledge he felt it when he was jammed or hit the ball off the end of the bat.
He'll determine his next step Saturday depending on how he feels, but Showalter has already told Lee that he won't be used in the first couple of Grapefruit League games.
"If it feels fine, I'll take more swings tomorrow. If it doesn't, I'll probably step back a little bit. So I'll just play it by ear," Lee said. "It's still very early … but with that being said, you don't want to be too far behind. April 1 comes really quick."
No small ball for Vlad
Showalter and hitting coach Jim Presley set up stations during Friday's workout emphasizing situational hitting, bunting and base running. The bunt station, run by Randolph, gave Showalter an opportunity to have a little fun with new slugger Vladimir Guerrero, who shared a group with Adam Jones.
"I said, 'Vladi, you know Jonesy had a couple of situations, at least one where I was there, with a man on third and two outs in the last inning and he threw a [bunt] down there to third base to win the game,'" Showalter said.
Apparently, Guerrero was not impressed. According to Showalter, he said, "Two-run homer."
"I said I like that, too," Showalter said.
Around the horn
Sunday's intrasquad game is still scheduled for the remodeled Ed Smith Stadium. Ryan Drese, Adrian Rosario, Wynn Pelzer, Mike Ballard, Raul Rivero, Nick Bierbrodt, Chris Jakubauskas, Troy Patton, Chorye Spoone, Armando Gabino and Pedro Viola are scheduled to pitch. … Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen and Koji Uehara will pitch in the Orioles' Grapefruit League opener Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who will start Paul Maholm. … Jeremy Guthrie and Rick VandenHurk will go Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays in the home opener. The Rays will send out Andy Sonnanstine. … Perhaps reacting to Roberts' being out, Robert Andino took ground balls at second base Friday. … Pitching coach Mark Connor gave most of his pitchers the day off from throwing. "Mark does that," Showalter said. "He's probably had as much success as anybody with the health of pitchers over the years. … He handed out a sheet to all of them three days ago when they're pitching for the next two weeks."