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02/24/11 3:40 PM EST

Roberts not yet past pesky stiff neck

Second baseman feeling better, hopes to work out soon

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Brian Roberts didn't participate in Thursday's workout, as the Orioles' second baseman was sidelined for the second consecutive day by neck stiffness.

Roberts maintained on Thursday morning that he is not "overly concerned" about his neck, and X-rays on Wednesday came back negative. The pain was ruled a muscle spasm, and he is aiming to return to workouts on Friday or Saturday.

"You could tell he felt a lot better [on Thursday]," said manager Buck Showalter, who estimated that Roberts was about 50 percent improved.

The neck issue stemmed from how Roberts slept on Tuesday night, and he sat out of baseball activities on Wednesday morning in what was described as a precautionary measure unrelated to his back.

"We've probably all had a stiff neck at some point in our life, right?" Roberts said on Wednesday. "I'm not overly concerned."

Roberts has been dismissive about the concern that any injury could be an ominous sign of his back flaring up. Roberts played in only 59 games last season after suffering a herniated disk in his lower back during last offseason's workouts in Arizona.

"I understand there's about a two-feet difference from where my back hurt and where my neck hurt," Roberts said. "So I'm pretty sure they are not related.

"We tried to get it calmed down at least, so whenever it does feel fine, I'll go out there. It's the third day of Spring Training."

Still, any injury to Roberts, regardless of the severity, is cause for immediate concern for the Orioles. Baltimore's offense struggled mightily without its leadoff hitter, and Roberts worked out hard this offseason to report to camp healthy.

The Orioles also re-signed Cesar Izturis as a utility player, for insurance, and inked Minor League deals with Nick Green and Brendan Harris to have options in the event that Roberts can't stay healthy. Robert Andino, who is competing for a bench spot, can also play second base.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.