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Orioles still unsure whether Roberts will be ready by spring

Andino, suddenly a hot commodity, would probably be top choice to play second

By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

9:42 PM EST, December 5, 2011

DALLAS —

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The refrain was the same from both Orioles manager Buck Showalter and new club executive vice president Dan Duquette.

They are holding out hope that leadoff hitter and second baseman Brian Roberts will be able to return to his all-star form in 2012. But both men admit it's impossible to predict if Roberts will be on the field, since he has played in just 98 games in the past two seasons, primarily because of concussion symptoms.

"We don't have any reason to think one way or another. This is an inexact thing. I can't sit here and act like I'm an expert on concussions," Showalter said Monday. "We'd love to have him back playing for us. I'm as curious and anxious to see where it takes us as anybody. But it's just so hard to handicap."

And that creates some additional uncertainty for a club that's already short on depth.

Robert Andino was the primary fill-in at second base last season and could do it again. But the Orioles prefer to have him be a super-sub, allowing other players to have more off days. Andino has also become one of the club's most popular trade targets due to his versatility and solid season in 2011.

But it's tough to deal him because of the uncertainty surrounding Roberts. The club's other potential second basemen are Matt Antonelli, Ryan Adams and Steve Tolleson. Only Adams played in the majors last year — and he had just 89 at-bats in 29 games.

"Andino's value to the team is as a backup shortstop and backup second baseman. So if Roberts isn't ready, than Andino becomes more valuable to us," Duquette said. "I hope Brian Roberts is healthy and ready to go. We are encouraged by some of the recent reports so we'll have to wait and see on that."

Markakis, Davis, Arrieta recovering

In his conference with the national media Monday, Showalter gave updates on several players.

Nick Markakis' deeply bruised abdomen is almost fully healed, but Showalter said his right fielder will be seeing a specialist "just to make sure we don't get surprised by something in the spring. But he's pretty close to being 100 percent."

Showalter said Chris Davis is also recovering well from a groin strain and right-hander Jake Arrieta has full extension with his right arm after having bone spurs removed from his elbow during the season.

A decision on pitcher Jim Johnson's role still has not been determined. He may enter the rotation, but Showalter said that will depend on other moves the Orioles make. The decision will be made before spring training.

No Scott; no contract decision yet

Outfielder/designated hitter Luke Scott, who made headlines during last year's winter meetings by questioning the birthplace of President Barack Obama, will not be attending this one. Starting Tuesday, he'll be doing missionary work in Venezuela for about a week.

Still, Scott, 33, will be a topic of discussion in Dallas. He is set to make $6 million-plus in his last chance at arbitration this winter. And the Orioles don't want to pay that for a guy who is coming off shoulder surgery and batted just .220 with nine homers in 64 games in 2011.

They would like him back, though, at a lesser salary and have until next Monday at midnight to decide whether to tender him a contract. Scott's agent is in Dallas and the two sides likely will meet at some point this week. They haven't discussed Scott's contract yet this offseason.

Florimon Jr. claimed by Twins; Viola to Norfolk

In an attempt to create room on their 40-man roster, the Orioles put infielder Pedro Florimon Jr. on waivers and he was claimed by the Minnesota Twins on Monday. Florimon, who turns 25 this month, had one hit in eight at-bats in four games with the Orioles in September. He batted .267 with a .344 on-base percentage in 133 games for Double-A Bowie.

The Orioles also announced that pitcher Pedro Viola, who was taken off the roster last week to make room for Taylor Teagarden, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles' roster is now at 39.

Showalter likes Darvish

Showalter said he has watched tape on 25-year-old Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish and thinks he has the ability to succeed in the majors. If he does come to the majors this year — he has yet to be posted — it will probably cost roughly $100 million in posting fees and contract value.

"I'd take him," Showalter said smiling. "Is he coming for free? I don't think so."

Around the horn

Duquette reiterated that Korean right-hander Chong Tae-Hyon is still deciding between staying in his home country or joining the Orioles. Chong has seen Orioles' doctors, but Duquette wouldn't confirm whether he has been medically cleared to play. … The Orioles are hopeful they'll be able to announce the big-league coaching staff by the end of the week. They haven't announced their bullpen coach — expected to be Bill Castro — or third-base coach, which likely will be Demarlo Hale if he leaves the Boston Red Sox. … Showalter said he called new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine to offer congratulations and they briefly discussed Hale, who is still under contract with Boston.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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