May 2012

Roberts on starting a rehab assignment

Brian Roberts, who hasn’t played in a Major League game in more than a year, will begin a rehab assignment with the Orioles’ Double-A Bowie affiliate on Wednesday. The news, while a huge lift of optimism for an organization that has played the better part of three years without their longest-tenured player, isn’t a shock given Roberts’ comments Monday that suggested the veteran infielder was very close.

“We wanted to get through one more day,” Roberts said of the timing of Tuesday’s announcement which was first made by manager Buck Showalter on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network pregame show.

“We had this kind of tentatively scheduled for a while, but the more people know about it obviously the more pressure there is. If for some reason we needed an extra day or two we didn’t want to deal with the questions and repercussions as to why.”

There have been many questions surrounding Roberts, who has admitted numerous times during his concussion recovery that he thought he had reached the end of the road in terms of his baseball playing days. Asked Tuesday if he felt a return to the Roberts of old –a dynamic leadoff hitter and All-Star second baseman – was even possible at this point, the 31-year-old preached patience.

“Standing here today, I can’t say that I’m going to be Brian Roberts tomorrow,” he said.  “I’m not going to go out there and probably be running into walls tomorrow. But I am going to be out there and it’s going to be a progression. And I hope by the time I rejoin our Major League team I will be the same guy I was five years ago. Doesn’t mean you don’t make some minor adjustments here and there. I want to be on the field and helping this team, whatever that looks like.”

The plan is for Roberts to play second base for a few innings and get several at-bats on Wednesday and he will start out playing second base the first few games, although that plan is tentative and could also include some time at designated hitter. Roberts, who hasn’t played in the big leagues since May 16 expressed gratitude for all those who have aided his road to recovery –including Minnesota’s Justin Morneau who he spoke with Tuesday morning – and admitted there’s will be a mixture of joy and apprehension when he takes the field on Wednesday.

“[I’m] excited. Scared. A little bit of everything,” Roberts said of his return. “It’s been a long time coming for sure.”

Per Major League Baseball’s rules for position players on rehab assignment, Roberts will have 20 days to get himself ready to rejoin the Orioles, a time period he is expected to maximize.

“I’m pretty sure we will use the 20,” Roberts said. “It’s been over a year and I need to get some at-bats. I stood in on some bullpen sessions and it looks pretty fast. I need to get in there and see some pitches. The first week it’s probably only going to be two or three at-bats a day. So it’s going to take a little while to build up…we are going to use as much time as we can.”

Orioles vs. Red Sox Game 2: Injury updates and lineups (updated)

*Brian Roberts will start a rehab assignment for Double-A Bowie on Wednesday night, a rehab process that will allow him 20 days to get back to Baltimore. Roberts spoke at length about his pending return yesterday –admitting could be sent out within a week — and you can read more about that here.

*Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said today that the team is looking to upgrade and improve its pitching depth, although he declined to elaborate on any specific targets. Duquette did confirm that pitcher Zach Britton –fresh off five innings in extended spring on Monday — could be activated on the team’s next road trip. Britton spoke to MLB.com about his recovery process yesterday, and you can read about that here.

Right now, he is scheduled to make a rehab appearance for Double-A Bowie on Saturday.

*The Orioles are discussing a promotion for top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy, which looks like a near-certainty at this point. Bundy, who hasn’t allowed an earned run, isn’t expected to skip a level and will head to Class-A Advanced Frederick if –or more like when — that decision is made.

*Mark Reynolds appears to be nearing a return, as he hit off of coaches while rehabbing his strained left oblique in Sarasota, Fla., on Tuesday. Endy Chavez, also in Sarasota rehabbing the same injury, remains a step behind Reynolds and was limited to soft toss and hitting off a tee.

*Nolan Reimold is scheduled to get his second epidural injection on Friday. You can read more on his thoughts on that here. Because the first epidural didn’t work, Reimold could need a third and it’s impossible to target any timetable for his return at this point.

*Pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada arrived at the team’s facility in Sarasota on Tuesday to begin the next phase of his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Wada had the surgery in Los Angeles on May 11 and had previously been rehabbing there.

*Taylor Teagarden’s appointment to get a second opinion on his back injury is scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m. Teagarden has been on the disabled list since Spring Training started.

*Noteworthy from the Red Sox lineup is the return of Kevin Youkilis, who hasn’t played since April 28 with a low back strain. Although it was thought that Will Middlebrooks would be bumped to the bench to make room for Youkilis, manager Bobby Valentine will start Youkilis at first and move normal first baseman Adrian Gonzalez –who volunteered- to right field. That allows Middlebrooks to stay at third, where he has posted a .297 average with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 18 games this season.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Robert Andino 2B
JJ Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Wilson Betemit 1B
Chris Davis DH
Steve Tolleson 3B
Xavier Avery LF

Brian Matusz LHP

RED SOX LINEUP

Mike Aviles SS
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Adrian Gonzalez RF
Kevin Youkilis 1B
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Daniel Nava LF
Marlon Byrd CF

Felix Doubront LHP

Reimold likely to get second epidural

Nolan Reimold hasn’t been progressing as quickly as the organization had hoped and the outfielder is likely headed for a second epidural injection in his spine, which could happen later this week, to help aid his recovery from a herniated disk in his neck.

Reimold was examined by neck specialist Dr. Lee Riley and said following Monday’s game that he’s leaning toward getting another shot, although there’s no guarantee it will speed things up.

“There’s a lot better chance it would help with the pain than it would help with the weakness and the numbness,” said Reimold, who is more concerned with the latter two issues, which have been frustratingly slow to resolve. Asked if there was anything that could be down for the numbness that runs up his left shoulder, Reimold said it’s just a matter of giving the injury time.

“I got a nice traction table in there,” Reimold said, gesturing toward the team training room.  “I do that a couple times a day. I started working out a few days ago. Try to keep myself in the best shape I can so when I am able to come back I’m not too far gone, too far out of shape. So, I do everything I can to keep myself going.”

Reimold last played April 30 and –while his timetable is very uncertain – he’s not expected to return until at least mid-June at this point. Asked if he was going to take some time before making a definite decision on getting the epidural, Reimold said,  “[Riley’s] going to schedule it. If something happens, I can always cancel but I’m probably going to get it.”

Reimold was hitting .313 with five homers and 10 RBIs in 16 games before hitting the DL.

Roberts nearing rehab assignment

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is nearing a rehab assignment, and the veteran infielder –who hasn’t appeared in a Major League game in more than a year- acknowledged Monday that it’s possible he could be back playing for an affiliate within a week.

“We’ve got a plan in place and 99 percent of it is based on what Brian and his doctors are talking about,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We’re at the point where there’s a potential date involved.”

Neither Roberts or Showalter would elaborate on when that exact date is, but when pressed further Roberts said the next seven days is a definite possibility, a prospect which has fueled the slowly-building optimism that the 34-year-old can rejoin the team in the season’s first half.

“For a long time, I wasn’t sure where the finish line was and I certainly didn’t see it,” Roberts said of his long road to recovery. “When you do get a glimpse of that, it’s nice and you do get a breath of fresh air and some added momentum.

There’s been a lot of times in the last year that I had no idea if I’d ever play baseball again. So, in some ways it’d be a huge achievement or triumph just to get back out on that field. It’s definitely something that I’ve thought a lot about. I’d love for it to happen. I think when that day happens it will be, not necessarily something I’m proud of, but I guess maybe in some ways I’ve continued to fight. There were a lot of times I could have easily shut it down.”

Roberts said he would go to a full-season club –not to an affiliate in Sarasota — and he would like to commute, which makes nearby Double-A Bowie the most logical landing spot.  Even when he gets sent out, Roberts plans on still being around the team when they are in town and doesn’t have a specific timeframe for the length of his rehab, which is a maximum of 20 days under Major League Baseball’s rules.

Showalter, who has allowed himself to think of the possibilities a healthy Roberts would add to his club, bristled at the insulation that Roberts would be a part-time player upon return.

“Role player? I don’t think about it like that at all,” he said in reference to Roberts just being active being enough. “I think Brian is looking at it as a lot more than just getting here. Brian wants to get here and bring what Brian can bring, and we all know what that capability is. I think he knows what it takes to perform at this level.

“He’s not going to put himself in a position to come back unless he knows he can bring that. He knows what the needs of a player is to play at the level in our division, so I have complete trust in him that he’ll know if it’s right.”

Roberts said he’s up for whatever Showalter wants upon his return, and praised the performance and effort of Robert Andino who has earned an everyday role at second base in Roberts’ absence.

“When it comes to winning my job back, whatever Buck wants me to do, I’ll do,” Roberts said. “I’d love for this team to be playing in October and if I’m sitting on the bench then, I guess, so be it. I’d like to think he’s going to run me out there when I’m ready.

I think the goal is to get me back here doing everything. And when I get back here, I can do everything. It doesn’t mean I can’t DH every now and then or something. Or Buck thinks that’s the best thing for a week straight. We haven’t really talked too much about that option. Certainly our goal is to play second base every day.”

Orioles vs. Red Sox lineups and pregame notes

*Zach Britton threw five innings today in his final extended spring start and –assuming Wednesday’s bullpen goes OK — will head to an affiliate to make his first rehab start on Saturday. That’s likely Double-A Bowie because they are home. You can read more on Britton here.

*Brian Roberts is nearing a rehab assignment, and the second baseman acknowledged he could be playing for one of the affiliates in the next week. Manager Buck Showalter wouldn’t divulge an exact date but he said the team along with Roberts and his doctors have been having frequent discussions. Roberts said he would go to a full-season club –not to an affiliate in Sarasota — and he would like to commute, which makes nearby Bowie the leading option.

*Reliever Matt Lindstrom said there’s no pain in his right middle finger, and he hoped to throw at some point this week. As it stands now, Lindstrom will probably have to go to extended spring and get a few rehab outings and won’t be ready when his 15-day DL period is up.

*Nolan Reimold (herniated disk) is scheduled to be reexamined by the team doctors later tonight, and a second epidural injection seems likely at this point. There should be more news on Reimold’s condition and his timetable later tonight or tomorrow.

*Showalter said he hasn’t decided what he will do with the rotation beyond Thursday’s off day, although the preference is to give each starter an extra days rest and stay on turn. How Jason Hammel (right knee) is feeling the next few days could change things.

*Mark Reynolds (left oblique strain) is doing baseball activities in Sarasota, including tee work and fielding, and he is also nearing a rehab assignment.

*Catcher Taylor Teagarden is improving but is going to get a second opinion from back specialist Dr. Andrew Dossett in Dallas.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Xavier Avery LF
JJ Hardy SS
Nick  Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis 1B
Wilson Betemit 3B
Nick Johnson DH
Robert Andino 2B

Tommy Hunter SP

RED SOX LINEUP

Britton to make first rehab start Saturday

Orioles pitcher Zach Britton threw five innings in extended spring training this afternoon, going five innings and allowing two runs on four hits with five strikeouts. Britton, who has been on the disabled list since the season started, said his stuff was the best it’s been since he started throwing and the pair of runs came in the first inning when he had some early command issues. He threw around 80 pitches, including 10 in the bullpen to finish up and his fastball was in the 90-92 mph range.

The next step for Britton is to go out on a rehab assignment, which will likely be with Double-A Bowie, and he will make the first of what is expected to be two starts on Saturday.  He would probably get up around 90 pitches in that outing and –given that all of the Orioles’ affiliates are on the road after that — where Britton makes his second start is still pretty up in the air.

Britton, who received two rounds of platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy at the end of March, has been working in Sarasota, Fla. with Chris Correnti and Rick Peterson during his rehab and has praised the efforts of both additions to the organization.

“I feel strong,” said Britton, who is on the DL with left shoulder impingement and hasn’t been 100 percent since August. “We’ve been making some adjustments, just kind of smooth things out a little bit. [Peterson] thought there was some things I was doing last season in my delivery to compensate [for shoulder discomfort]; trying to get me back in the good mechanics I had at the beginning of last year.

My breaking ball is back, which I didn’t have at the end of last season. My changeup has been there and the velocity is starting to creep back up.”

Britton, who is aiming to be back the first week of June, said his progression went quicker than he thought and he will approach his two rehab starts like the final two starts of Spring Training in trying to win a rotation spot.

“I got to earn my way back on the team that’s for sure,” said Britton, who has watched every Orioles’ game he can while in Florida. “It’s a first place team and I got to put myself in a spot to win a spot, they aren’t just going to throw anyone out there. I got to show I’m ready to perform in the big leagues.

So, I’m pretty excited about these next two starts and getting a chance to do that.”

Orioles vs. Red Sox

The Orioles will end a brutal 20-game stretch in 20 days with three games against the Boston Red Sox, a suddenly surging club that has won eight of of their last 10 games after a 1-8 stretch. Boston has won two straight, including a 5-1 win in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, but the Red Sox are still 6 1/2 games behind the division-leading Orioles.

The O’s (27-15)  had a five-game win streak snapped on Sunday, losing on the road, 9-3, to the Nationals. Still, Baltimore owns the best record in the AL and swept the Red Sox in a three-game series May 4-6 at Fenway Park.

Before we get into pregame notes and lineups later this afternoon, I wanted to pass along some attendance figures from this weekend’s series in DC. Per an MLB press release,

Two of the four largest attendance days in Nationals Park history were tallied this weekend for the Washington Nationals’ series against the Baltimore Orioles.  The Nationals drew 42,331 on Saturday, marking the second-largest single attendance in Nationals Park history.  On Sunday, the game drew 41,918, the fourth-best attendance in the ballpark’s history.

Overall, the Orioles-Nationals series attracted 120,929 fans, the largest crowd in the rivalry’s seven-year history (previous: 114,929 in 2008).

That’s pretty impressive, and –as I mentioned on 105.7 this morning — it was good to see a mix of Orioles and Nationals fans really come out and support their respective clubs.

Orioles @ Nationals series finale

*Not much in the way of pregame news following last night’s series win, but here’s a few notable stats from the Orioles’ notes..

*The O’s have the best road record in baseball at 15-5 and have won nine consecutive road contests, their longest such road winning streak since August 29-September 24, 1999 when they won 10 straight.

*The bullpen leads the Majors with a 2.08 ERA, allowing 33 earned runs in 143 innings pitched to start the season. Jim Johnson has converted his last 23 save opportunities dating back to last year, including all 15 this season. Johnson’s 15 saves lead MLB. Kevin Gregg has not allowed an earned run his last seven outings and Pedro Strop has made 12 straight scoreless appearances.

*Manager Buck Showalter pointed out this afternoon that the Orioles have played 21 extra innings so far this season, which is the equivalent of nearly three extra games.  So, I did a little math and figured out that the team is on pace to throw 1541 innings this season. The record is 1506 by the 1964 Yankees, which are the only team to ever throw more than 1500 innings in a regular season. Hat tip to my colleague TR Sullivan of the Rangers beat, who informed me of that stat.

*Top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy is starting today against Hagerstown and my associate reporter, Greg Luca, will be covering the game. You can follow him on Twitter @GregLuca for live updates.

*Miguel Tejada is serving at designated hitter this afternoon for Triple-A Norfolk and –for those who asked — he got favorable reports in extended spring. Tejada has been playing mostly third base and is working to get back up here. That he’s been moved to Triple-A shows that he’s been impressive and also that the organization is incredibly thin positionally at third base. It will be interesting to see what happens with that position in the coming weeks, with Bill Hall and Ryan Flaherty getting a look up here and Mark Reynolds currently rehabbing down in Sarasota, Fla.

*Jason Hammel said last night that he feels like he’s still pitching on one leg and his stamina just hasn’t been there the last two starts as he’s restricted in his conditioning given the right knee injury that forced him to skip a start earlier this month.  Showalter said the team’s athletic training staff is working on tweaking Hammel’s between-starts regimen –right now he’s still not running- to help combat the problem and the team could tweak the rotation following Thursday’s off day.

The Orioles are off Thursday the 24th and 31 and on June 4,  and Zach Britton’s pending arrival will certainly shake up the rotation as well. Britton, who is expected to be sent out on rehab assignment later this week, could return on the team’s next road trip, perhaps as soon as the Boston series. Given the three upcoming off days close together, Hammels’ situation –as well as the performance of the other starters — will be monitored closely.

*Showalter is now 130-130 since taking over as the O’s manager. While he’s the last guy to take any credit, there’s no denying the impact he’s had since coming to Baltimore. Showalter has challenged guys since his arrival, but admitted this afternoon he “set the bar even higher” this spring with his young club. Whatever he’s done, it’s worked in the first quarter of the season: this is a team that is confident, poised and has each others backs. And it’s a refreshing change from past Oriole regimes.
ORIOLES LINEUP
Xavier Avery LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam JOnes CF
Wilson Betemit 3B
Chris Davis 1B
Robert Andino 2B
Luis Exposito C
Wei-Yin Chen SP

NATIONALS LINEUP
Danny Espinosa 2B
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Ian Desmond SS
Xavier Nady RF
Tyler Moore LF
Jesus Flores C

Stephen Strasburg SP

Orioles @ Nationals, Game 2

*Infielder Miguel Tejada is reporting to Triple-A Norfolk and will be available on Sunday night. Manager Buck Showalter said the O’s have no concrete plan on what positions Tejada will play and whether he will eventually join the Major League roster. Showalter added that Norfolk manager Ron Johnson has a tendency to use his players at many different positions and could do the same with Tejada. Tejada’s arrival will bolster a Norfolk roster that has been trimmed by the loss of Bill Hall, Xavier Avery and Steve Tolleson to the big leagues during the past two weeks. Tejada was signed on May 8 and had been working out in Sarasota, Fla., since then.

*Mark Reynolds is nearly pain free but is yet to do any swinging, Showalter said. Reynolds has been in Sarasota, Fla., since Tuesday as he recovers from a strained oblique that landed him on the 15-day disabled list. He is eligible to be reactivated on May 26.

*Endy Chavez is doing well in his recovery from a strained oblique and is eligible to be reactivated on May 25. Chavez has also been working in Sarasota.

 

ORIOLES LINEUP

Robert Andino 2B
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Wilson Betemit 1B
Steve Tolleson 3B
Xavier Avery LF
Jason Hammel RHP

NATIONALS LINEUP

Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Ian Desmond SS
Rick Ankiel CF
Carlos Maldonado C
Roger Bernadina LF
Ross Detwiler LH

 

–Greg Luca

Orioles @ Nationals

Greetings from Nationals Park, where the Orioles –who enter the game with the best road record in the Majors– squad off against a Washington Nationals team that is 23-15 and in second place in the National League East.

*Not much in the way of pregame news here, but there were a few transactions the last few days for the Orioles, who outrighted Brad Bergesren to Triple-A Norfolk after the right-hander cleared waivers. Bergesen was designated for assignment last week to clear a 40-man roster spot for Xavier Avery. MASNSports.com first reported Bergesen had cleared waivers.

*The Orioles signed outfielder Lew Ford and he’s batting leadoff and playing center field for Triple-A Norfolk tonight. Ford, who last played in the Majors in 2007, most recently played with the Long Island Ducks in independent ball and the 35-year-old hit .333 in 19 games.

*The Orioles have won seven consecutive road games going into tonight, and have 13 road wins overall. To put that in perspective they won their 13th road game last year on July 13.

*I’ll be on the Orioles’ pregame show with Jim Hunter tonight on MASN, discussing Adam Jones emerging as a leader, rookie Xavier Avery’s  valuable spring lesson and how starter Jake Arrieta is dealing with his inconsistency issues on the mound.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Xavier Avery LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Wilson Betemit 3B
Chris Davis 1B
Robert Andino 2B
Jake Arrieta RHP

NATIONALS LINEUP

Ian Desmond SS
Roger Bernadina LF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Bryce Harper RF
Danny Espinosa 2B
Rick Ankiel CF
Jesus Flores C
Edwin Jackson RHP

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