SARASOTA, Fla.—Second baseman Brian Roberts will be in uniform when the Orioles take the field for their first full-squad workout Friday at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, but it remains to be seen how much he will be able to participate in the early drills.
Manager Buck Showalter met with him on the field after Thursday's final pitcher-catcher workout and said the progress that Roberts has made in his recovery from two concussions has been “very encouraging.”
It also has been a difficult situation for the team, which would benefit greatly if Roberts could make a comeback but cannot afford to assume he'll be available for all or part of the season.
“We all know what it would mean to get him back,” Showalter said. “But what are you going to do if he's not able to? It's prudent on our part to prepare both ways, and we have. It's a lot easier to write a lineup, but for every one I've written with him, there's three or four I've written without him.”
Showalter had a message for anyone who has questioned Roberts' desire to resume his career as one of baseball's most productive leadoff hitters.
“He played 150 games a year for an extended period of time,” Showalter said. “Nobody loves the game of baseball more than Brian Roberts. Nobody probably loves the Orioles more than Brian. I think sometimes we really underestimate his level of frustration with this. I do know he's made some progress that's very encouraging, but I don't think anybody's got a definitive timeline on it.”
Roberts has been reluctant to say much about his recovery over the past few months. He was featured in a Sun Magazine article early in the winter sounding very upbeat about his progress, then seemed reluctant to talk about it at the Orioles Reach holiday party.
He is expected to meet with reporters after Friday's workout.
No place like home
Most of the Orioles' position players arrived in camp well ahead of Thursday's official reporting date, and all had been seen in camp by the end of the day.
“I hope that bodes well,” Showalter said. “That certainly helps the ‘want-to' part. I think they also know that there are some jobs open. We didn't have much trouble getting people's attention in the offseason about opportunity. We offer opportunity to some people who were here last year and people who weren't. We'll start trying to gather that all together over here, starting tomorrow.”
No doubt, a lot of players were eager to get into camp to enjoy the new clubhouse complex, which has state-of-the-art everything for the modern ballplayer.
“Without a doubt,” Showalter said. “That's why you're so careful about not making the optional workouts so structured and dictatorial. You want to do something where [they think], ‘I want to get down there and do that.' I understand they have obligations. The last thing I told them was I want to see how far they can get away from the game for about a month. But it builds back up about coming back into it. It's obvious this is something they love to do and a place — as word gets around — we've already seen some guys move down here.
“We hope they live in Baltimore, but if not, Sarasota's a close second.”
Right-handed reliever Jason Berken suffered a left hamstring injury during conditioning drills Thursday. Showalter initially said Berken “tweaked” the hamstring, but later indicated that the injury might be more significant.
“I don't know if “tweaked” is the right description,” Showalter said. “I'll know more when I sit down with [head trainer Richie Bancells].”
Angle heads west
The Los Angeles Dodgers have claimed Orioles prospect Matt Angle off waivers. The 26-year-old outfielder was designated for assignment when the club signed reliever Luis Ayala. He played 31 games for the major league club last year but became expendable when the Orioles added potential fourth outfielders Jai Miller and Endy Chavez.
Around the horn
Right-hander Jim Johnson, who is rehabilitating a sore back, threw off the half-mound Thursday and will graduate to the full mound Saturday. Showalter said Johnson and left-hander Zach Britton (shoulder inflammation) are progressing well. ... The Orioles continue to await the arrival of catcher Ronny Paulino and lefty reliever Dennys Reyes, who have to straighten out visa problems.
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