Inbox: When will Roberts return?

Inbox: When will Roberts return?

When is Brian Roberts coming back? Our offense is nothing without him.
-- Jeffrey G., Baltimore

I couldn't agree more, Jeff. Without Roberts, the O's lineup has a completely different complexion, and it's not pretty. Baltimore is near the bottom of the Major Leagues in batting average (.225), runs scored (46) and on-base percentage (.285) and the team's average with runners in scoring position is dreadful.

Unfortunately, back injuries are slow to heal and have a tendency to linger, and the one thing the Orioles don't want to do is rush Roberts, who suffered a herniated disk in his lower back during offseason workouts in Arizona. You saw Roberts try to accelerate his rehab this spring to get himself Opening Day-ready, but the back issue flared up again and resulted in his second epidural injection. Roberts was cleared to start light exercises and strengthening activities this week, and he'll be examined again on Friday by back specialist Dr. Lee Riley at Johns Hopkins. However, any update on when you will see him in an Orioles' uniform would be pure speculation.

Roberts' productivity last year, where he posted a .356 on-base percentage and hit .283 with 56 doubles and 79 RBIs is hard to replicate. He's one of the game's best leadoff hitters and, as manager Dave Trembley has acknowledged, there's no replacing Roberts. The best the O's can do is try to fill in until he's healthy.

This season was supposed to be judged by wins, not development. Any rumblings on Trembley's status as manager and if he will last through the year?
-- Chris H., Aberdeen, Md.

When president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail picked up Trembley's option for this year he made it clear that the team was out of Phase 1 and into Phase 2, meaning it's time to start being judged by the team's record. So far, that doesn't bode well for Trembley, as the Orioles have lost 14 of their first 16 games and have been playing uninspired and unproductive baseball. Trembley's pregame meeting prior to Wednesday's loss didn't do much, as the O's plated a run in the first inning before falling to Seattle, 4-1. But Trembley's message to the media was clear: he's done making excuses and smoothing over the fact that his team is underperforming.

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Of course, the injuries to Roberts, Felix Pie, Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara don't help. Neither does the demotion of starter Brad Bergesen to Triple-A, and the fact that Miguel Tejada and Nolan Reimold aren't 100 percent. Still, there's no denying Trembley's seat is getting hotter with each series sweep, and considering the Orioles are entering a stretch of 12 straight games against the Red Sox and Yankees it's imperative to get the team on track. And the sooner, the better. While MacPhail is well-known for being level headed and won't give a knee-jerk reaction to a poor start, you have to figure he won't let the ugly rate the team is losing games go on all year. Regardless of who deserves blame for the team's record, you can't fire the players, making Trembley and his coaching staff ripe for ire from fans and media alike.

The thing to consider when making a midseason move is who would take the reins if Trembley is fired. You can't raid another team's coaching staff now, so you either promote from within or hire someone who's currently not in baseball. If the Orioles do make a move --and I'm not saying they will -- who would assume the helm? That's just as important of a factor when discussing Trembley's future.

While watching the games, I notice at times the guys seem really lifeless and discouraged. What's the mood like in the locker room?
-- Nickie D., Washington, D.C.

I wouldn't say it's lifeless, but it's quieter than usual in the clubhouse, and understandably so. While no one is going to come right out and say it, the Orioles sorely lack a vocal leader. By nature they're a pretty reserved and low-key group, and there's nothing wrong with that. But when things are going bad, it would be nice to have a veteran player step up and take some of the heat.

They did had a players-only meeting prior to Saturday's game in Oakland with the premise being to forgot their record and just start 0-0. There's also been days where a good portion of the offense is out on the field hours before batting practice taking some extra swings. The Orioles are well aware they are playing below expectations. But it's not for lack of effort and certainly isn't because they don't care.

Watching Tejada get hurt made me think about bringing up our young guys to let them get some seasoning. Any thought to giving guys like Josh Bell or Brandon Snyder a shot?
-- Rob C. Providence, R.I.

Simply put, Rob, the young guys aren't playing very well either. The two you mentioned, Bell and Snyder, are both in Triple-A and neither have posted particularly strong starts. Snyder is homerless in 15 games and is hitting .189 with five RBIs, while Bell is hitting .236 with five RBIs in 14 games. Considered a legit power threat from both sides of the plate, Bell has also yet to go yard.

Keep in mind that MacPhail's approach has been patience with prospects, which is why the team went out and got Tejada and first baseman Garrett Atkins in the first place. Bell has never played above Double-A until this year, while Snyder spent the second half of'09 with Norfolk and hit .248 with two homers and 43 RBIs in 73 games.

As for Tejada, who was held out of Wednesday's lineup for the fourth straight game due to a strained hip adductor, Trembley told reporters in Seattle he was confident the third baseman would be ready for Friday's series opener in Boston. Right now, all signs point to Tejada avoiding the already-crowded DL, which is definitely a sigh of relief for the Orioles. But barring a trade or unforeseen injury, the team's offense has dug itself a hole and will have to get out of it with the same group.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.