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Pie, Gonzalez, Johnson, Koji all getting closer; Roberts not so much

While second baseman Brian Roberts (herniated disk) could be shut down from baseball activities for another couple of weeks, the other injured Orioles could be returning a lot sooner than the club originally expected.

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said that outfielder Felix Pie and relievers Michael Gonzalez, Koji Uehara and Jim Johnson could all be ready to return to the club by the end of the month.

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"All those guys will be welcome here," said interim manager Juan Samuel. "We do need some help."

Pie, who hasn't played since April 15 because of a torn muscle in his back, will take batting practice tomorrow at the club's spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla. The final step before rejoining the Orioles would be a rehab assignment at one of the team's minor league affiliates.

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Gonzalez (left shoulder strain) threw a simulated game today and both his velocity and his stuff were reportedly much improved. He's expected to throw again on Wednesday.

Both Uehara (right forearm strain) and Johnson (right elbow inflammation) have reported no problems during the early stages of their throwing program. Johnson will throw from 120 feet tomorrow and could start pitching from a mound in about a week. MacPhail said that both Uehara and Johnson will have relatively short rehab assignments because they are only one-inning pitchers.

As for Roberts, who got another epidural injection late last week, MacPhail said the club is in a holding pattern as it waits for the symptoms to subside, but he reiterated that season-ending back surgery has not been discussed.

"We're just going to let the symptoms die down and when they do, he can go back to baseball activities," MacPhail said. "We just hope we can get him back to on-field activities in a couple of weeks."

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