Rotator cuff pain sidelines Roberts


BOSTON - Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts was scratched from last night's lineup because of a strained right rotator cuff, and the team isn't sure of the injury's severity or how long it will keep him off the field.

Roberts woke up yesterday morning and noticed the discomfort, similar to the type that caused him to miss exactly two weeks' worth of exhibition games.

"He said it's similar but not to as great a magnitude," trainer Richie Bancells said.

That brings little comfort to a team that has three position players on the disabled list - Javy Lopez, Larry Bigbie and Luis Matos - and went 16 games without Sammy Sosa.

"We just decided not to play him," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He wants to try, but I'm not going to play him. He wants to play every day, the kid.

"I hope it's day-to-day. We'll see how it is [today]. He doesn't remember it happening on one particular play."

Asked if he's concerned, Roberts said, "Anytime that you have something that doesn't feel normal, yeah, of course, but Richie and [assistant trainer Brian Ebel] don't think it's anything serious. It's one of those deals where you hope a day or two saves you two weeks."

Said Bancells: "I'll have a better idea [today] which way it's going to go and how long."

Chris Gomez replaced Roberts, who has a career-high 20-game hitting streak, at second base. David Newhan moved atop the order after being listed ninth in the original lineup.

Roberts, who leads the league with a .368 average and has 11 home runs, missed significant time in spring training because of the injury, but the Orioles were being especially careful.

"Spring training is a little different," Mazzilli said. "You really wait, wait, wait as long as you can going into the season. You're not going to rush him back. But he knows I'm not going to try to hurt anyone and play them now."

Not star-struck yet

Roberts said he's honored to lead American League second basemen in the early All-Star voting, but he doesn't consider himself the favorite. That honor, he believes, goes to the Texas Rangers' Alfonso Soriano.

Roberts has received 433,461 votes and leads Soriano by 1,450.

"I'm sure a lot of those are our fans and that shows we have a lot of our support back for this team," Roberts said. "Soriano always ends up with a million votes, so I'm not worried about it at this point. That's the least of my concerns."

His lead indicates more than local support. It shows the respect he's gaining in other cities.

"Anytime you feel like people enjoy watching you play and feel like you're doing your job well, it feels good," he said. "The All-Star Game is a great honor, and if it happens, it would be great, but if it doesn't, that's not the end of the world."

Ponson tunes up mechanics

Sidney Ponson vowed to watch tapes of his past starts and correct his "screwed-up mechanics" after giving up four runs and 10 hits to the Detroit Tigers in Friday's loss, his second in a row heading into last night's assignment against the Red Sox.

Since he usually won't speak to reporters on the days that he's not starting, his findings were being kept private. But pitching coach Ray Miller said Ponson's problems aren't hard to locate.

"The last couple of games, he's been long in his stride," said Miller, who suggested that Ponson review tape of an April 24 game against the Toronto Blue Jays, when he gave up five hits and one earned run in a complete-game victory.

"I've been telling him about it and he's been working on it. You try to throw the ball harder than you can and you get too far out. You use more body than you need."

Ponson went 6 2/3 innings last night, allowing no earned runs.

Told that catcher Geronimo Gil said his ball was cutting real late, making it tough on Red Sox hitters, Ponson said: "I just throw the ball where Chief's glove is. If it moves, it moves."

Around the horn

Closer B.J. Ryan earned his first Rolaids Relief Man Award for May after going 10-for-11 in save chances. He didn't allow a run in 16 games spanning 15 1/3 innings. ... The Orioles have 74 homers, second in the majors to Texas. ... The Orioles are waiting to see if outfielder Tim Raines Jr. clears waivers after designating him for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster. "It'll be another day or so before we know anything," said David Stockstill, the team's director of minor league operations.

Sun staff writer Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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