Orioles' Roberts calls concussion symptoms 'certainly concerning'

Second baseman unlikely to be ready to play when eligible to come off DL Tuesday

May 21, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

In his first comments since going on the seven-day disabled list with concussion symptoms, second baseman Brian Roberts said his latest health issues are "certainly concerning" and casted doubt that he'll be able to return to the Orioles' lineup this week.

"It's not life and death, but when it comes to baseball right now, today it's not great," said Roberts, who missed the final six games of last season with a concussion, the symptoms lingering well into the offseason. "From talking to some doctors that deal with concussions a lot, I think we can get our arms around it and I think that we can fix the problem. We can do things to hopefully make it better quicker. I don't think it's going to be anything that lasts like last year at all. But it's not fun right now."

Roberts is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday, but he hasn't done any physical activities since he started to get headaches Monday, making it very unlikely that he'll be available at that point.

"We originally had hopes he would play Tuesday, and you hold out hope he'll be able to play then," manager Buck Showalter said. "But I also know the reality of some of the diagnoses. Talking to him today, some of the headaches have gone away, which is a good sign."

Roberts said he started getting the headaches after he slid headfirst while beating out an infield single in the first inning of the Orioles' loss to the Boston Red Sox on Monday. His head never hit the ground, but he was told by doctors that the jarring and whiplash effect can produce the same impact as if he had actually hit his head.

After the play, Roberts' headaches got progressively worse to the point where he had trouble sleeping.

"The sleeping has gotten better," said Roberts, who is consulting with the same concussion specialist he dealt with last winter. "It's just almost like a car-sick or motion-sickness feeling sometimes, some headaches and stuff. I'm going to clear up the symptoms and get back out there as soon as possible."

Roberts was again asked whether, when he returns, he'll alter his style of play. The second baseman, who was limited to 59 games last season because of a herniated disk in his back and the concussion, missed time in spring training after a headfirst slide into first in a Grapefruit League game against the New York Yankees.

"I play the game with instinct," he said. "Obviously, after this, there might be things. … I just never knew or dreamed that sliding headfirst would cause something like this. I always assumed that I'd have to actually have a head collision of some sort in order to experience these sorts of things again. So once I get back on the field, there might be things, like I said. If I don't slide headfirst into first, then I won't slide headfirst into first. I guess it's one of those things I learned in a way that I didn't really want to learn."

Berken will start

Hoping to help struggling right-hander Jason Berken regain both his confidence and command, the Orioles will allow him to start in the minor leagues.

Berken, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Friday night after he surrendered six earned runs to the Washington Nationals in one inning, raising his ERA to 7.94, will start for the Tides on Tuesday. He was a starter coming up through the minors, but he has pitched the previous two seasons out of the bullpen.

"I was talking to him last night, and he said this is the best he's felt. I'll tell you what, he may be too strong," said Showalter who pointed out that Berken's velocity Friday was 92 to 95 mph. "I do think he needs to get the ball and pitch multiple innings. He's not going to necessarily come back here as a one-inning guy either. I don't think there's really a downside to him pitching multiple innings because one of the challenges that we've had, we have a lot of guys in the bullpen who are one-inning pitchers. That's tough to do in the American League if your starters are struggling."

Showalter stopped short of saying this will be a permanent role change for the 27-year-old who made 24 starts for the Orioles in 2009, going 6-12 with a 6.54 ERA.

"He could come back either way," Showalter said. "He may be able to go back and start, but this way, initially, it's about what is best for him and the team for when he comes back. I think the innings will be nothing but good for him. I expect him to come back and help us."

Matusz shines for Bowie

Brian Matusz appears ready for his 2011 big league debut.

The 24-year-old lefty pitched six scoreless innings for Double-A Bowie against Erie on Saturday, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out one. In two rehabilitation stats -- his first was for Single-A Frederick -- Matusz has allowed one run on five hits and three walks while striking out three over 10 innings.

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