03/25/10 12:56 PM ET
Roberts to make spring debut Friday
Orioles second baseman set to return from herniated disk
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
The goal will be for Roberts to play five innings and get three at-bats, although manager Dave Trembley declined to specify an exact plan, if there is one in place. The switch-hitter was cleared by the team's medical staff and Trembley said the decision was made when he spoke with Roberts on Thursday morning.
Roberts has had a rocky road in recovering from the herniated disk 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."
While Roberts is a go for Friday's game, Trembley said he wasn't sure if he would play back-to-back games just yet. Right now, the Orioles' skipper is just focused on watching Roberts on Friday and progressing toward the 25 to 30 spring at-bats the club believes is necessary for him to be ready Opening Day on April 6.
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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 Spring Training games -- perhaps hitting every other inning -- to get extra swings that way.
As of Tuesday, Roberts said there was no exact plan in place for him and that the first priority would be getting him ready to play in games.
"I'm sure [playing in the Minors games is] always an option and a possibility if you need to get the at-bats quickly," Roberts said.
The Orioles have sorely missed their No. 1 bat in the leadoff spot during Grapefruit League play. Baltimore entered Thursday's game last in the American League in batting average (.243), runs scored (76) 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. The latter number set the all-time single-season mark for two-baggers in a season by a switch-hitter.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.