Roberts may see game action this week
O's second baseman hoping to make spring debut
SARASOTA, Fla. -- If Brian Roberts can get into a game this week -- something the Orioles and the second baseman believe is possible -- he may have enough spring action left to be ready for Opening Day vs. the Rays on April 6.
"If I can play by the end of the week or the weekend, I should be fine -- as long as there are no setbacks after that, " Roberts said.
A critical sparkplug atop the Orioles' lineup, Roberts took full swings from both sides of the plate during batting practice on Sunday and Tuesday, taking Monday's scheduled off-day with the rest of the team. Roberts has had a rocky road in recovering from the herniated disc in his lower back -- suffered during offseason workouts at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Arizona -- but he acknowledged on Tuesday morning that he is feeling better.
"I don't really know what has helped and what hasn't," said Roberts, who went through several different megadose packs of medication before flying to Baltimore to see Dr. Lee Riley for an epidural on March 15.
"I know it feels better. I feel better than I did 10 days ago. There's things that still feel the exact same, but things that feel a little better. So as long as [the epidural] helped me hit, that's all that really matters."
Roberts said the goal is to make his Spring Training debut this week, a sentiment manager Dave Trembley echoed to reporters in Jupiter, Fla., where the Orioles visited the Marlins on Tuesday.
"It would be nice to get him in a game at the end of the week," Trembley said. "But I'll have to check with the medical people and see what he says."
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The O's are hosting three Grapefruit League contests this week, facing the Yankees on Thursday on MLB.TV at 1:05 p.m. ET, the Twins on Friday at 7:05 p.m. and the Red Sox on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. Sunday's game is against the Blue Jays in nearby Clearwater, Fla., at 1:05 p.m.
The plan is for Roberts to keep progressing over the next few days, play in one of those games and start to build toward 25-30 spring at-bats. Since Roberts has been able to field and take infield practice through nearly the entire recovery process, getting his timing down at the plate will be the team's first priority.
Trembley has said previously that the O's could opt to have Roberts play in some Minor League games -- perhaps hitting every other inning -- to get extra swings that way.
"We really haven't talked too much about the game plan once I start playing," Roberts said. "We're just trying to see if I can get to that point first.
"I'm sure [playing in the Minors games is] always an option and a possibility if you need to get the at-bats quickly."
The Orioles have sorely missed their No. 1 bat in the leadoff spot during Grapefruit League play. Baltimore entered Sunday's game last in batting average (.241), runs scored (72) and on-base percentage (.301).
Roberts hit .283 with a .356 on-base percentage and a .451 slugging percentage in 159 games last season. The 32-year-old hit 16 homers with 79 RBIs and a franchise-record 56 doubles. Roberts also set the all-time single-season mark for doubles in a season by a switch-hitter last year.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.