It's time to get a little concerned about the O's offensive catalyst

A stiff neck shouldn't be much to worry about. But when that stiff neck is attached to the wonky back of Brian Roberts, the team's offensive catalyst who played in just 59 games in 2010 because of a herniated disk, there is cause for concern.

Roberts missed an Orioles team workout for a third consecutive day today. President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said the Orioles aren't sweating it and that Roberts has gotten better day by day. But you can't help but worry a little bit about the second baseman's condition getting worse as the spring progresses.

After all, we were told his bad back wasn't a big deal last spring when it was. Roberts went on the disabled list after four games. He didn't return until late July, and I'm pretty sure the Orioles were already eliminated from playoff contention by then. Losing their leadoff hitter wasn't the only reason, but it was probably most to blame.

The offense struggled in his absence because they had no natural leadoff hitter besides Roberts. When he returned and Buck Showalter took over as manager a couple of weeks later, the Orioles started winning.

Flash forward to today, and the Orioles still don't have a replacement for Roberts. Sure, Cesar Izturis, Brendan Harris or Robert Andino can trot out to second base with a glove and fill in just fine. But who is going to take Roberts' spot atop the lineup? Nick Markakis? Felix Pie? J.J. Hardy? Adam Jones?

That's going to be a problem, one that could wreck the Orioles' reconstructed lineup and again trip the Orioles up out of the batter's box. Even at 33, Roberts might be the Orioles' most indispensable offensive player. So hopefully for their sake, his little neck injury really is no big deal.