PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With his recovery from a fractured right thumb moving at a swift rate, David Segui isn't expected to miss as many games as the Orioles originally anticipated.
Segui suffered the injury March 12 in Fort Myers, Fla., after raising his glove to protect himself from a line drive during batting practice. He was taking ground balls at first base before a game against Boston.
Club officials were prepared to lose Segui for the entire month of April, with projections that his hand would remain in a removable cast for four weeks and require another three weeks of healing time. Segui insisted all along that he would return much sooner -- he took batting practice yesterday and made solid contact -- and was hoping to stay on the active roster when the Orioles headed north.
It appears that the two sides will reach a favorable compromise. Though Segui won't be ready by Opening Day, manager Mike Hargrove said, "I don't think he'll be that far away."
Without Segui, who has appeared in only 108 games the past two seasons, the Orioles must find another No. 3 hitter for their restructured lineup. Left fielder B.J. Surhoff batted third yesterday against the New York Mets. If Melvin Mora replaces him on Opening Day against Indians left-hander C.C. Sabathia, center fielder Gary Matthews probably would slide into the third slot.
The Orioles will put three players on the 60-day disabled list to create room on the 40-man roster: outfielder Albert Belle and pitchers Scott Erickson and Erik Bedard. They're one under the limit because of Steve Bechler's death.
A significant portion of the Orioles' staff meeting on Wednesday was devoted to making final roster decisions, which could be announced today.
Now that the rotation has been set, with Rick Helling named the No. 3 starter, the Orioles must settle on their four reserves. Club officials are keeping a close watch on the waiver wire for anyone who represents an affordable upgrade over the players still in camp.
If no changes are made, infielder/outfielder Mora and backup catcher Brook Fordyce would comprise half the bench. The Orioles prefer to have Brian Roberts play every day at Triple-A Ottawa, but they apparently are debating whether to keep corner infielder Jose Leon, who's batting .425. They're also intrigued by Larry Bigbie, who is leading the team with 15 RBIs, but the need for another outfielder isn't as great.
Retaining Leon would increase Jeff Reboulet's chances of staying with the club for defensive purposes, but could cost John Valentin a spot. It also would be a temporary move until Segui returned.
Left behind I
Outfielder Marty Cordova stayed behind in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., while the rest of the team gathered at Thomas J. White Stadium, where the Orioles-Mets game was halted after four innings because of rain.
Cordova was scratched from Wednesday's game because of a strained lower back, and the Orioles didn't want to aggravate his condition with a one-hour, 45-minute bus ride.
His back apparently began to stiffen after the Orioles traveled to Fort Myers on Monday.
The Orioles weren't taking any chances yesterday of repeating Monday's situation.
"We've done some real stupid things around here sometimes," Hargrove joked, "but that's not one of them."
Left behind II
While the Opening Day festivities unfold on Monday, pitcher Jason Johnson will be making a start at the minor-league complex in Sarasota.
Johnson is disappointed that he won't be at Camden Yards, but the Orioles want him to face live hitting rather than throw a simulated game in the bullpen. He'll go about three innings in preparation for his April 5 start against the Red Sox.
"They said this is the best way to get ready for my start," Johnson said.
The Orioles will open the gates at noon for the 3:05 p.m. game against the Indians. American tenor Richard Troxell will sing the national anthem, and a moment of silence will be observed for former pitchers Bechler and Dave McNally, and the soldiers who have lost their lives in the Middle East conflict.
McNally died of cancer last year, and Bechler died on Feb. 17 of complications related to heatstroke.