Orioles' Lee sees hand specialist, will have MRI

Team doctor believes tendinitis is cause of first baseman's wrist soreness; Roberts' back flares up

March 08, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Orioles sent Derrek Lee to a hand specialist in Sarasota on Tuesday and he'll have an MRI on his right wrist there Wednesday, raising further doubt about whether the veteran first baseman will be ready for Opening Day.

Lee, who hasn't played in a Grapefruit League game after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb in November, started experiencing right wrist soreness within the past week. He attributes the soreness to atrophy in his wrist after having his thumb in a cast for an extended period.

The Orioles wanted to make sure that there were no further issues with the wrist and sent him to see hand specialist Dr. Brian Schofield, a Sarasota-based orthopedic consultant for the club. The club said team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens is confident Lee's discomfort is the result of tendinitis and there is no damage to the wrist but that the first baseman will undergo an MRI to make sure.

"It's nothing to the surgery side; [his thumb] feels great," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I don't want to say tendinitis until they diagnose it. He's going to see a specialist in Sarasota just to make sure we know what we are dealing with."

Asked whether there are growing concerns about Lee with Opening Day about 31/2 weeks away, Showalter said: "We're OK. I really like the fact that the actual surgery and all that feels real good. This is a little something different. You have something that inactive that long, all of a sudden you start doing other things, sometimes it kind of flares up a little bit. I think we will have a better idea at the end of the day what we are dealing with."

Showalter did say there is nothing "imminent" as far as Lee, who has been hitting soft toss but hasn't taken live batting practice since Thursday, being able to get into a game. Though Lee denied he was frustrated, the uncertainty appears to be wearing on the 35-year-old.

"It's just a process," Lee said. "It's unexpected. It's a process I've never been through. I thought once my thumb was fine, I was in the clear. Even this morning, the doctor was like, 'Yeah, this is just part of it.' You kind of have a weak hand and you start doing activities, this is going to happen."

Lee estimated that he would need between 20 to 30 spring at-bats before he was ready for the regular season.

"We'll go along with what Derrek feels like, for the most part," Showalter said. "He's been to quite a few spring trainings as a major league hitter; I'd lean on him for that."

Roberts' back acting up

Second baseman Brian Roberts sat out Tuesday's workout at Ed Smith Stadium because of back spasms.

"He's scheduled to play [Wednesday] in the day game, so we will see if that will take care of itself over night," Showalter said. "He said he did it two, three days ago during the stretching. It kind of came back."

Roberts led off the bottom of the first inning against the New York Yankees on Monday night with a bunt and headfirst slide into first base. Showalter didn't think that play aggravated the injury.

"He felt good last night," Showalter said. "He had it from stretching and just tweaked it a little bit. It went away, and he played the game. He came in today, and it flared up again."

Roberts was limited to 59 games last season because of a herniated disk in his back. He also was shut down this spring with a stiff neck.

Berken not worried

Reliever Jason Berken's comeback from a right labrum tear is going well from a rehabilitation standpoint, but he has struggled on the mound this spring. He has made three appearances and allowed three earned runs on four hits and three walks, spanning three innings.

"It's a process,'' he said. "Obviously, you don't want to give up runs and hits, but healthwise, I feel really good. Do I need to be better? Do I expect to be better? No question."

In his last outing Monday against the Boston Red Sox, Berken allowed run on two hits and a walk in one inning.

Berken figures a little rust should be expected, considering he hadn't pitched since Aug. 12. He said he just started throwing pain-free about a month ago.

"To an extent, spring training is a time to work on stuff and get things right," he said. "You want to go out and pitch well, but I don't think it's time to overanalyze things. I just have to find things I can improve on."

Berken entered spring training as a favorite to make the Opening Day bullpen, but he does have an option remaining, meaning he can be sent to Triple-A Norfolk without being exposed to waivers.

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