BOSTON -- Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts has been ramping up efforts in his progression -- sliding and doing a substantial pregame workout prior to Friday's game -- and the veteran infielder believes he could be ready to go on a rehab assignment in the near future.

"We are definitely a lot closer than we've ever been," said Roberts, who hasn't played in a Major League game in nearly a year, of his return. "Obviously we don't have an [exact] time right now, but we're as close as we've ever been for sure.

"I'm optimistic and excited about hopefully what the next little while holds."

Roberts has gradually worked his way up to watching full games in the dugout, something he accomplished in New York, where he also served as pseudo-hitting coach Tuesday, when Jim Presley was hospitalized with a kidney stone.

"I gave a lot of advice," Roberts joked of the O's 7-1 win that night. "Not really. Basically, I just stood there, clapped. I tried to take Pres out the next game, but we won [that, too], so it's good."

Another encouraging sign on this road trip for Roberts? Crossing another barrier transportation-wise. While the 34-year-old has had no problems flying with the team, going on the entire three-city road trip last month, Roberts admitted taking the train from New York to Boston may have been a bigger test.

"I didn't feel great," Roberts said of the approximately four-hour train ride. "But I'm not going to lie, I didn't used to feel that great [on it] anyways. It's probably even worse now, but I didn't use to like it either.

"I survived it. It wouldn't be my first choice [for traveling]. It's a lot with everything going by you. It's definitely a vestibular challenge."

Roberts hadn't spoken with his doctors since departing New York on Wednesday night. He planned on touching base on Friday, and he was upbeat about what he's been able to accomplish the past few days. He simulated double plays in the field, hit and hit the weight room as part of his workout and punctuated Friday's interview with several laughs and jokes.

"Brian has this wired," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Roberts' timetable. "He's talking to the right people about what he feels and what he doesn't feel. I let him initiate it. We'd love to have him tomorrow or today. It's such an inexact thing, and I'm leaning on him. He's been the best barometer of this thing all along, and I think even I lost sight of that. We already have talked about [his schedule], I just don't broadcast it."


• Executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre has overturned the error originally given to Yankees left fielder Eduardo Nunez in the sixth inning of the Orioles' win on Tuesday. Since the ball didn't touch Nunez's glove, it is now being scored a double for Nick Johnson, who got his first two hits of the season in that game.

• Rule 5 Draft pick Ryan Flaherty -- who is a Maine native -- will have a lot of people in the stands over this three-game series in Boston. Flaherty, who grew up a Red Sox fan, estimated he'd have about 20-30 people here over the weekend.

• In light of Mariano Rivera's right knee injury, O's closer Jim Johnson said he won't alter his pregame routine and will continue to join the rest of the relievers by shagging outfield balls during pregame batting practice. Manager Buck Showalter, who was Rivera's first Major League manager with the New York Yankees, called the season-ending injury sad news.

"He was our best center fielder," Showalter said of Rivera. "We used to play a game in extended spring, on Sunday camp day, we'd let the pitchers play a game off the coaches. ... I remember telling our farm director, 'If we figure out that this guy can't pitch, he can play center field.' He and Bernie [Williams] used to go back and forth about who was the best center fielder. It was part of his conditioning, part of why he's been so good, his routine.

Showalter said he has no plans to alter what his pitchers do in regard to pregame BP.

"The way most guys are, they're shagging, but they're standing out there," he said. "If it's hit right in my glove I catch it. I'm not saying [Johnson] is one of those guys, but it's not like they're moving a great distance. It's like bicycles, some things you can get overly cautious on, too."