Roberts' condition improving, but next step undetermined

Orioles second baseman still unsure when he'll be able to get into game situation

March 07, 2012|By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — — Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said Wednesday morning that he has more good days than bad in his recovery from multiple concussions.

Roberts is gradually doing more baseball work. He has begun taking live batting practice from coaches and for the past week has been working with former Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick, fielding ground balls. He has also been doing running and stretching activities with special assistant Brady Anderson.

The next step in Roberts' progression — which would seemingly be hitting live batting practice against Orioles pitchers — isn't as clear.

"I don't know what the next step is," Roberts said. "When we get to point where I guess I feel like I'm to the point where the next step is, we'll figure out what the next step is. Even when I was healthy, I wasn't hitting off live pitchers before I played in games. I never liked doing that anyway."

But as for when Roberts might be able to get into a game situation, he shrugged.

"I look at today," he said. "That's it."

Roberts said he's able to do most of the weightlifting exercises he needs to, and he feels like he has gotten his legs under him with his conditioning and regained some of his speed.

"It's still a progression," he said. "We have steps that we're taking, and it's a pretty systematic approach so I don't just go do everything I want every day. My doctor lays out a plan every day, and we kind of go by that.

"I'm definitely better than I was four months ago, so that's good. It's never as fast as you want, but we're getting there.

Chen throws well vs. Twins

Taiwanese left-hander Wei-Yin Chen said he struggled with adjusting to a new mound in Saturday's intrasquad game, in which he threw 31 pitches and lasted only two-thirds of an inning.

Chen was a different pitcher in his Grapefruit League debut Wednesday against Minnesota, throwing two scoreless innings and striking out the side in the second inning in the Orioles' 6-0 win over the Twins at Ed Smith Stadium.

Chen, signed this offseason to a three-year, $11.388 million contract in the offseason after spending the past four seasons in the Japanese Central League, depended mostly on his low-90s fastball, striking out Brian Dinkelman and Sean Burroughs swinging and getting Ben Revere looking.

"Because of my tempo and timing, this time I threw very well," Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. "I think the most important thing is that the Twins batters don't know me yet. That's why I was able to strike out three in a row."

Chen said the intrasquad outing allowed him to get his first-game jitters out of the way.

"The last time, I didn't feel comfortable on the mound, but today I adjusted a lot and I felt more comfortable throwing to [catcher] Matt [Wieters]," he said. "I'm still a human being, and I'm still nervous when I'm pitching the first time."

New PA announcer debuts

Ryan Wagner, selected out of 670 applicants to be the new public address announcer at Camden Yards, made his Orioles debut, serving as PA announcer for Wednesday's game.

Asked whether he was nervous about his first game, Wagner — who was a resident of the "MLB Fan Cave" last season — acknowledged he had some butterflies before the game.

"Maybe a little bit because this is going to be the hardest game I do all year," he said. "There's going to be 40 people playing in this game, so I'm a little nervous about the changes and all that. But I'm more excited than nervous, just excited to get out there."

Wagner, a lifelong Orioles fan who received a tour of the team's spring training facilities Tuesday evening, said he had no plans to attempt any catchphrases.

"Everybody's been asking about that," he said. "Catchphrases kind of have to come organically. You can't go in with one. Looking back at [former longtime PA announcer] Rex Barney's 'Thank you,' he did it by accident first time, and he went home and somebody said he sounded really good so he kept doing it. So I think if I came in with something in my pocket already, it would never stick and people right away would know it wasn't real. Maybe, if I'm here long enough, maybe I'll come up with a catchphrase."

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