Barring a last-minute setback, all indications are that Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts will be activated from the 60-day disabled list Tuesday before the club's three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Camden Yards.
Roberts' 20-day minor league rehab assignment window closes Monday, and he likely played his final rehab game Sunday, going 0-for-4 for Triple-A Norfolk in a 4-2 loss at Buffalo.
Roberts, who hasn't played in a major league game since May 16, 2011 because of concussion symptoms, hit .238 (10-for-42) with one home run, four RBIs and seven walks in 13 minor league rehab games at Norfolk, Double-A Bowie and Class-A Delmarva.
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"Obviously, we're hoping that Robby joins us Tuesday and we'll have a decision to make and unlike years past, we'll be sending some people out that we'd like to keep," manager Buck Showalter said after the Orioles' 10-inning 5-4 win over the Phillies.
It's still unclear how often or in what capacity Roberts would play. During his rehab assignment, he gradually built up innings and at-bats to the point that he was playing in complete games.
The Orioles would likely option infielder Steve Tolleson to Norfolk to make room for Roberts on the 25-man roster. A corresponding 40-man roster move would need to be made because Roberts is currently on the 60-day disabled list.
Once Roberts returns, it leaves Showalter with the dilemma of where to play current starting second baseman Robert Andino. Showalter would like to utilize Andino as a utility infielder but it is possible Andino could also see some time in the outfield.
"I like the idea that Robert is a guy who has always felt comfortable playing almost anywhere," Showalter said. "If Brian had been further along with this, I would have played [Andino] a lot in the outfield this spring. We talked about that. But we'll continue to make use of Robert's skill.
"I'm not 100 percent sure about the outfield. I'd be surprised. I talked to some people with the Marlins (Andino's former team) about him playing the outfield, but I think that Robert would be an above-average fielder anywhere on the infield."
Options aplenty for Saturday spot start
There's still a lot of baseball to be played before the Orioles need to make a decision on their starting pitcher for Saturday's game in Atlanta.
The Orioles have had four off-days since May 24, meaning they've needed a fifth starter just once — Tommy Hunter was called up to pitch Saturday against the Phillies — in that span. They'll need to pick a fifth starter again for Saturday's game against the Braves.
It depends a lot on how much the club's bullpen is taxed in the days leading up to Saturday. Long-reliever Dana Eveland could make that start, and don't count out Jake Arrieta if he begins to build his confidence in the bullpen.
If bullpen arms can't be used for a spot start, the Orioles could look to Norfolk. Right-hander Chris Tillman would be on normal days rest and has a 1.74 ERA in his past three outings. Provided he pitches well Monday, he could get the nod.
Another option is newly-signed 49-year-old right-hander Jamie Moyer, who threw five innings of one-hit ball with five strikeouts Saturday for Norfolk.
One unlikely option is left-hander Zach Britton, who has a 5.91 ERA through two Triple-A rehab starts. The Orioles seem to be determined to see Britton only after he's shown he's ready to join the rotation for good. Britton lasted just 4 2/3 innings Sunday afternoon, allowing three runs — all earned — on seven hits with two strikeouts and two walks. He allowed four runs on seven hits in his first Triple-A rehab start.
Around the horn
The Orioles are now 31-15 in games in which they hit a home run. … They are 10-10 in series finales. … Phillies designated hitter Jim Thome was 6-for-13 with one home run, two doubles, four RBIs and three runs in the series. Thome ranks first all-time in inter-league home runs with 60. … Hunter's seven-inning start Saturday gave the Orioles a 14-0 record when one of their starters goes seven or more innings. ... Orioles 19th-round draft pick Josh Hader, a left-handed pitcher from Old Mill, participated in theBrooks Robinson All-Star High School following Sunday's game.