BALTIMORE — The news wasn’t encouraging for Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts after seeking a second opinion on his right hamstring as he’ll undergo surgery and will be sidelined at least six more weeks.
Roberts visited knee specialist Dr. Daniel Cooper in Dallas on Wednesday morning as it was determined the 35-year-old would undergo a “semitendinosus release” procedure on Thursday. Roberts will eventually report to Sarasota to begin rehabilitation in hopes of making his return this summer.
Earlier this week, Roberts was taking light batting practice before complaining that the back of his right knee didn’t feel right, which prompted the infielder to see Dr. Cooper. He is the same doctor who cared for Rays third baseman Evan Longoria’s injured hamstring last year.
“If you look at all the scenarios and the way it’s transpired, this is the best chance for him to get back and not have an issue with it again,” said manager Buck Showalter, who added that Dr. Cooper was the specialist who handled his recent knee surgery. “A lot of experts think this can get you back and not have it reoccur again because it keeps the scar tissue from forming, which creates other issues. Full support of it and hopefully he’ll make the time period and be able to pick up where he left off and not have that in the back of his mind. I know what his goals are.”
Roberts has played in only three games this season as the original prognosis for a return was three to four weeks after he injured his knee sliding into second base on April 4 at Tropicana Field. The club has officially labeled the injury a right hamstring strain, but Roberts actually tore the tendon behind his knee.
This procedure will hopefully facilitate quicker healing for the veteran infielder, who has played in only 118 games over the last four seasons while dealing with various ailments. It is all but a certainty that Roberts will be transferred to the 60-day disabled list once a need arises to make a 40-man roster move.
“He’s very frustrated by it, as we are, but Brian Roberts is going to come back and make a contribution to this club this year,” Showalter said. “I’ve got a good feeling about that.”
The starting second baseman was sent to the 15-day DL on April 5 and has been replaced by a platoon of Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla.
The hamstring procedure will mark the third time in the last year Roberts has undergone surgery after dealing with a torn labrum in his hip last season and a sports hernia in the offseason. The longtime Oriole is in the final year of a four-year contract that is paying him $10 million this season.
Markakis serves as DH again
Never one to miss much playing time before a 2012 campaign marred by two freak injuries, right fielder Nick Markakis served as the designated hitter for the third time this season on Wednesday night.
You can imagine the stoic Markakis isn’t thrilled about serving in a limited capacity, but the 29-year-old expressed appreciation to Showalter, acknowledging that it will help keep him fresh over the course of a 162-game schedule. The Gold Glove right fielder served as the club’s DH only four times combined from 2010 through 2012.
“It’s different,” Markakis said. “You just have to stay loose, stay stretched and wait for your turn to hit. Haven’t done it too much, but it’s good. It gives me time off and a chance to get my feet back under me. It’s a different mindset, but it’s good every once in a while.”
Showalter told Markakis he would see more time in the role this season and the right fielder denied there was any physical challenge that’s limiting his time in the field. Little-used reserve Chris Dickerson started in right field in the second game of a three-game set with Kansas City.
Observers have noted that Markakis’ throwing arm hasn’t looked as strong this season, which could be a product of wear and tear as well as long-term effects of serving as a power pitcher in college. Upon selecting Markakis with the seventh overall pick of the 2003 draft, many talent evaluators suggested the Orioles should make Markakis a pitcher at the professional level after he played in the outfield and pitched for Young Harris College.
“It’s tough to go out there and play every day, especially for a long time over years,” Markakis said. “This is good every once in a while. There is a lot of running in the outfield. To not have to worry about defense and just focus on offense, it gives you mentally a break as well as physically.”
Guesswork with Gonzalez
Right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez will throw a bullpen session on Thursday to test out the healing blister on his right thumb and determine whether he can make Saturday’s start in Minnesota.
Both Gonzalez and Showalter have admitted there will be a certain amount of guesswork in determine whether he will take the hill against the Twins or whether he will be skipped in favor of someone else. He will throw with a bandage covering the area to protect it while going through his workday, but Showalter acknowledged they won’t fully know whether he’s OK until he’s pitching without the added protection.
Gonzalez feels confident that his four-seam fastball won’t be an issue, but he expressed some hesitation whether his two-seam and off-speed grips will impact the healing area.
Depending on how the next few games go, Showalter could elect to make Saturday a bullpen day should Gonzalez need additional time before his next start or the club could dip to Triple-A Norfolk where Steve Johnson would be pitching on normal rest on Saturday.
The club will receive a break with the rotation headaches next week as Monday and Thursday are scheduled days off and will allow Showalter to reset his bullpen in a way he’d like while managing Gonzalez’s blister even more if necessary.
Betemit progressing slowly
Veteran switch-hitter Wilson Betemit continues to make progress in recovering from a Grade 2/3 PCL tear but hasn’t been cleared for baseball-related activities.
The 31-year-old is eligible to return from the 60-day DL at the end of the month, but Showalter acknowledged that would likely be a stretch at this point.
The Orioles would benefit from Betemit’s bat in the lineup against right-handed pitching as their DH position is hitting just .145 with three home runs and nine RBIs this season.