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Orioles notes: Team awaits tough decisions when players get healthy

Reimold, Roberts, Britton and Chavez could return soon — but who gives up their spots?

By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

11:43 PM EDT, May 21, 2012

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Last week, Orioles manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette were knee deep in personnel decisions, trying to figure out how to fortify a battered 25-man roster.

Eventually, perhaps fairly soon, Showalter and Duquette will have to deal with the flip side — trying to jam everybody back on the big-league roster.

"Through the years, these things kind of work themselves out. It's a good problem, but I don't consider it a problem," Showalter said. "It's a good adjustment, something we haven't had much. When it happens, and someone is ready to come back, then we'll look at it."

Left fielder Xavier Avery, for instance, has played well since his call-up from Triple-A Norfolk. But eventually Endy Chavez (oblique) and Nolan Reimold (neck) will return. Brian Roberts (concussion) may be able to go on a rehab assignment soon, yet Robert Andino has excelled at second base.

And lefty Zach Britton (shoulder) threw five innings in extended spring training Monday and likely will go on a minor-league rehab assignment next week, assuming his side session Wednesday goes OK. So he'll be back in 30 days or fewer (the rehab period allotted for pitchers), and there isn't an obvious spot in the rotation for him right now.

"Zach understands what competition is all about," Showalter said. "That's why he was in the big leagues last year, and [we] look at it as part of the depth that we're going to get back here, hopefully shortly."

Britton likely will pitch at one of the club's affiliates on Saturday, though the specific schedule and location has not been released.

Roberts won't head to Sarasota

Roberts, who hasn't played in a game since May 16, 2011, is closing in on a rehab assignment — and it wouldn't be surprising if it occurs about the time the Orioles are on a 10-game road trip beginning next week. He has hit in the cage, completed intense fielding drills and traveled with the team. What's left now is game action.

"I don't have a date, obviously. I really don't know yet, it's been such a moving target and a moving process," said Roberts, who has played just 98 games in the past two-plus seasons due to concussions and other injuries. "Obviously, I've used 'day by day' a lot and it is in some ways, but we've definitely had conversations about [when]. There's always the possibility of multiple situations and scenarios playing out."

Oftentimes, injured players start out in Sarasota at extended spring training because those games don't count against the 20-day window allotted to position players for minor-league rehabilitation. But Roberts said his rehab is more about getting acclimated to the speed and intensity of a game environment, and that wouldn't be the case in Sarasota.

"The biggest key is to start getting real at-bats in a real atmosphere. Sarasota, you know, there is not much of an atmosphere there," he said. "Plus, you are facing 18-year-olds that may have no clue where the ball is going. That is probably the last thing I need right now. And we are probably looking for an environment that is as close to real game action as we can be."

Roberts said he would expect to play at nearby affiliates — such as Double-A Bowie and Class-A Frederick — while they are at home.

"Somewhere where I can commute," Roberts said. "First couple days will be short outings, so we will probably stick to somewhere close so I can be around the [Orioles] some if they are going to be in town or whatever."

Other injury updates

Reimold, who has a bulging disk in his neck, met with neck specialist Dr. Lee Riley again Monday and a second epidural shot has been scheduled for later this week, Reimold said.

The left fielder, who last played April 30, said he isn’t 100 percent positive he will get the shot after the first one on May 11 did not help the pain in his neck and shoulder and the numbness in his forearm and thumb. But he is “leaning toward just getting it and taking my chances.”

“It didn’t work the first time. The doc thinks there’s a pretty good chance it won’t work again,” Reimold said. “But there’s always the chance that it will. I’ll just take my chances and do it again, see what happens.”

Orioles reliever Matt Lindstrom, who has a partial ligament tear in his right middle finger, said he is experiencing no pain and is hoping to be allowed to throw soon.

"Just kind of on a waiting period right now. I've been doing my workouts and stuff like that, trying to stay up to par with what I need to be doing, keep my arm going," he said. "So just kind of keep waiting a little bit, and I'm looking forward to throwing this week, so hopefully that's what happens."

Lindstrom is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday, but that won't happen. He'll likely pitch in extended spring and at an affiliate before he can return.

Catcher Taylor Teagarden (back) was improving while in Sarasota, but has now informed the team that he would like to get a second opinion from a back specialist in Dallas, Showalter said. Teagarden has not been able to participate in baseball activities since early March.

Wieters slumping, not worried

Catcher Matt Wieters, who turned 26 on Monday, entered the night in a 0-for-18 slump and just 4-for-40 in his last 10 games. This from a guy who batted .342 in a previous nine-game hitting streak.

Wieters said he's not fatigued from catching extra-inning games or sore from a home-plate collision on May 11.

"I'm just seeing the ball differently. You go through hot streaks and cold streaks throughout the year, and you just have to keep working to feel good again," he said. "That's the frustrating part about baseball and the great part. You're just not going to go through a whole year and cruise through it."

Showalter said he's made a point of trying to get Wieters some rest early. It's just a matter of time before he hits again, Showalter said.

"I talk to him every day, and he's a big part of our club and we'll continue to protect him. I don't ever take for granted what he does," Showalter said. "When catchers can be an offensive contributor, it's hard to do. And Matt was doing it at a high clip early on and will again."

Around the horn

Showalter has not revealed what the Orioles rotation will be after Thursday's off day. It's possible Jason Hammel (right knee soreness) or Wei-Yin Chen could get an extra day's rest. … Former Orioles infield prospect Josh Bell, whom the Orioles dealt to Arizona in April, was recalled from the minors by the Diamondbacks on Monday. He batted .381 with four homers and 30 RBIs in 26 games at Triple-A Reno. … The Orioles had lost their previous three Monday games this season at Camden Yards. … Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg's homer against Chen on Sunday was the first time an opposing pitcher homered against the Orioles since Boston's Sonny Seibert did it twice against Pat Dobson on Sept. 2, 1971.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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