TORONTO - Orioles reliever Jason Grimsley could go on an injury rehabilitation assignment next week if his surgically repaired right elbow holds up under the strain of consecutive bullpen sessions.
Grimsley threw yesterday before the Orioles' game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. He's expected to take the mound again today.
"Now we just have to see if he can handle back-to-back sidelines," said Mike Flanagan, vice president of baseball operations.
"We'll keep giving him more and more, and as long as he can handle it, I think next week is a possibility."
Such an accelerated schedule didn't seem realistic after Grimsley underwent ligament-reconstructive surgery Oct. 12. He was expected to miss most, if not all, of the 2005 season, but he could return before the All-Star break.
"With his injury, sometimes it's a year, a year and a half," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He's so far ahead of schedule, it's almost scary because you don't want to rush him back."
Mazzilli watched Grimsley throw in the Camden Yards bullpen before Saturday's game.
"He was outstanding," Mazzilli said. "It looked like he never left, stuff-wise, velocity, things of that nature."
Some changes have become apparent to Mazzilli.
"Just looking at him, he seems like a different person," Mazzilli said. "I guess that could be from throwing without pain for the first time in a while. It's like he's got a new lease on life."
Grimsley battled through an assortment of aches and pains last season while going 2-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 41 appearances with the Orioles.
Roberts back in lineup
Brian Roberts returned to the lineup last night after leaving Saturday's game in the sixth inning to rest his sore back and missing most of the next day's 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies. He had a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning.
Roberts said the discomfort isn't related to spasms, which cause the back to lock up. He's experienced some stiffness for about a week.
"It's not like I can't move. It's not nearly as bad as the other stuff," he said. "Sometimes this happens during the season. Everybody gets hurt once in a while."
Back issues seem to be a recurring problem for Roberts, who continues to lead the American League in batting by a healthy margin over Johnny Damon.
"It's probably a little better today," he said.
Roberts, who missed six games with a strained right rotator cuff, has hit safely in 40 of his past 44 games, batting .356 (62-for-174) during that span. Fearful of losing his leadoff hitter for a significant period, Mazzilli limited Roberts' playing time over the weekend as a precaution before exposing him to the artificial surface in Toronto.
"During the season, things hurt, and they're hard to get rid of when you're playing every day," Roberts said.
Preparing for 3,000
A .353 average in his past 10 games has drawn Rafael Palmeiro within 18 hits of the 3,000 mark and left the Orioles scrambling to prepare for a historic day that's fast approaching.
A team spokesman said the Orioles are in "the very early stages" of making preparations for Palmeiro's milestone, when he'll become only the fourth player with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.
If Palmeiro reaches 3,000 on the road, the Orioles will honor him upon the team's return to Camden Yards.
Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray are the other players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits.
"He's just so quietly gone about having a tremendous career," Flanagan said of Palmeiro.
Around the horn
Catcher Javy Lopez is expected to begin hand exercises after joining the team Friday in Atlanta, and he could return before the All-Star break. Lopez broke his right hand May 24. ... Reliever Steve Kline threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings during two weekend appearances, stranding four inherited runners, and he credits the recent improvement to a slight adjustment in mechanics, specifically the positioning of his hands as he goes into his windup. Kline has allowed runs in only six of his past 26 outings.