Roberts' return to O's nears next step

Roberts' return to O's nears next step

NEW YORK -- Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts will play five innings in an extended spring game on Friday with the expectation that he will get a few at-bats and continue to progress toward a return that could come as soon as mid-June.

O's manager Dave Trembley said prior to Tuesday's game against the Yankees in New York that Roberts will play a handful of games at the team's Minor League complex at Sarasota, Fla., from Friday until June 9 and will likely go on a rehab assignment after that.

Roberts, on the 60-day disabled list with a herniated disc in his lower back, is eligible to be activated on June 9, and although the second baseman won't be ready by then, Trembley acknowledged that Roberts' return is nearing.

"He's done very well," Trembley said. "He's hit every day live. He's taken ground balls; he's run the bases."

One of the game's premier leadoff hitters, Roberts has only compounded the problems of a struggling Baltimore offense with his absence. The Orioles entered Tuesday's game having been outscored by opponents, 253-175, and scored three runs or fewer in 31 of 51 games.

"It's not to make an excuse, but we have not been able to replace Roberts," Trembley said.

The Orioles, who entered Tuesday with a 15-36 record, have also sorely missed the bat of outfielder Felix Pie, who is on the 60-day DL with an upper back strain. Pie is also in Sarasota and will begin a throwing program this week, the first baseball-related activities for the outfielder since he was sidelined.