BALTIMORE — Taking light batting practice in Sarasota was supposed to be an important step in the return of Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, but it instead created more uncertainty regarding his status moving forward.
Complaining that the back of his knee didn’t feel right as he attempted to take swings, the 35-year-old infielder will see knee specialist Dr. Daniel Cooper in Dallas to get a second opinion on his recovery from a torn tendon suffered behind his right knee. Dr. Cooper is the same specialist who cared for Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria when the All-Star infielder suffered a hamstring injury last season.
“He started taking some batting practice and just didn’t like the way it felt,” said manager Buck Showalter, who supported Roberts’ request for a second opinion. “He said he wasn’t expecting that with the progression that we’ve done, and I think he’s just a little frustrated that it hasn’t come faster.”
The original prognosis for a return was three to four weeks after Roberts 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.
In Roberts’ absence, the club has used a second-base platoon of Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla that’s provided little offensive production as Flaherty is hitting just .125 and Casilla is sitting at .200. After previously hesitating to place Roberts on the 60-day disabled list, which would officially keep him off the big-league roster until early June, it now appears the Orioles wouldn’t hesitate to make the move should a roster need arise elsewhere.
The new development also makes you wonder if executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will look more carefully outside the organization for help at second base, but Showalter is publicly remaining optimistic until Dr. Cooper provides answers that might suggest otherwise in regards to Roberts being a likely candidate for the 60-day DL.
“No more than he was before,” Showalter said. “I’m not looking at it that way. I’m still holding out hope that this will get going. I like the fact that we don’t have a need for it yet.”
Wait-and-see mode with Gonzalez
The Orioles won’t know when right-handed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez will make his next start until he completes his bullpen day on Thursday to determine how well the blister on his right thumb has healed.
Gonzalez will cover the area with a bandage during his workday, but the pitcher isn’t allowed to wear as much as a Band-Aid on his finger when throwing in a game. The earlier Gonzalez would be ready to pitch is likely Saturday with his bullpen day falling on the final day of the Kansas City series.
Showalter isn’t ruling out the possibility of Gonzalez being skipped in the rotation entirely if the blister continues to be an issue.
“It’s getting better,” Showalter said. “It’s a blister underneath a callous. It’s kind of good in a way that it broke, tore off — whatever you want to say — so we’ve gotten all the way down to the bottom. Now, it’s a matter of getting [it] calloused over.”
Thursday would have been Gonzalez’s normal turn in the starting rotation, but veteran Freddy Garcia will instead take the hill against former Orioles Jeremy Guthrie in the series finale against the Royals.
Odds & ends
Shortstop J.J. Hardy received an injection in his right elbow from Dr. Lewis Yocum in Anaheim over the weekend for a case of mild tennis elbow, according to Showalter. It is not considered a big deal. … Starter Jason Hammel picked up his fifth win on Sunday to begin the year 5-1. According to Elias, with a win in his next decision, Hammel will become the first Orioles pitcher to go 6-1 or better to start consecutive seasons since Mike Boddicker, who started 6-1 in 1985 and 10-1 in 1986. … The Orioles have made just one error in the last 10 games and three in the last 17 games. … The Orioles (0-for-9) and Royals (1-for-10) are batting a combined .053 as pinch-hitters. … Baltimore has eight players with three or more home runs, the most for any American League team. Cleveland and Oakland are tied for second with six each. The Chicago Cubs lead the majors with nine players having three or more homers.