FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- Mark Pieper, agent for second baseman Brian Roberts, left Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday, after meeting with Orioles officials for more than an hour, without a contract extension for the second baseman but optimistic one could get done soon.
"We had good conversations, productive conversations, but we are not quite there yet," Pieper told a group of reporters.
Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said the two sides "made progress today," but declined to comment any further. However, two baseball sources with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed that the two sides are "very close" on what would be a two-year extension worth between $13 million and $14 million.
With Roberts, 29, already locked in for a $4.2 million salary for 2007 after he avoided arbitration last month, the deal - in the works for about six weeks - would essentially mean the Orioles were buying out one of Roberts' free-agent years. At this point, he isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2008 season.
Roberts did not play in the Orioles' 5-3 exhibition victory over the Florida Marlins yesterday, but he was in uniform. At one point during the game, he was summoned from the dugout by a clubhouse attendant and called into the offices where Pieper and the Orioles' top executives were meeting.
When he emerged, he laughed when he saw a group of reporters, apparently thinking they were there staking him out, though they were actually waiting to talk to yesterday's starting pitcher, Adam Loewen. Roberts told them he had nothing new to report.
The two sides are planning to keep negotiating over the phone and have yet to set a deadline to end the talks.
"I'm always optimistic," Pieper said. "There's no reason not to be, based on our discussions."
Wright not worried
Pitcher Jaret Wright says "everything hurts now." His shoulder, his back - choose a body part.
But that doesn't mean it's cause for concern. At least not in his mind.
"This is normal stuff," Wright, 31, said after receiving treatment on the shoulder. "It would be nice to feel great all the time, like when I was 22, but it just doesn't happen now. You've got to do a lot more work, a lot more maintenance to get out there."
Olson, Liz reassigned
The Orioles reduced their camp roster by reassigning pitchers Garrett Olson, Radhames Liz and Fredy Deza and outfielder Cory Keylor to their minor league camp in Sarasota, Fla.
Olson gave up a run in two innings in Sunday's game, and Liz allowed two runs in two innings.
"I liked them a lot," manager Sam Perlozzo said. "It was the first time I saw both guys. I heard conflicting things, and I was really pleased when I saw them. I think they've both got good futures in the big leagues.
"I was under the impression [Liz] was just a thrower, but he showed me that he was more of a pitcher than that. We're going to try to close him up a little bit and not fall off the mound. He opened up too much and showed the ball. When he does that, he gets the ball on a downhill plane, and he's got a great arm. He's got a future."
As two of the organization's top pitching prospects, Olson and Liz will get more innings in Sarasota than if they remained in the major league camp. They had no shot to make the team out of spring training, but Olson could get called up this summer.
"They told me to keep doing what I'm doing and keep the ball down in the zone and keep working on every pitch, stay healthy and see what I can do down there," Olson said.