Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts will return to Sarasota tonight after receiving an epidural injection to help alleviate the discomfort from the herniated disk in his lower back.
Roberts was examined today by Dr. Lee Riley, a back specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Orioles will now have to wait to determine if the treatment achieved the desired result.
"We'll just have to wait a couple of days and see how he responds," said Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.
MacPhail acknowledged on Sunday that his concern is growing that Roberts, who has still not played in an exhibition this spring, will not be ready for Opening Day. He said Oriole scouts are keeping an eye on several second base trade targets, but he has not had any extensive talks.
"We've already started the process of trying to line up whatever options we may need depending on whatever time frame we think we're dealing with," MacPhail said.
MacPhail should have plenty of options to choose from assuming the Orioles are simply looking for a veteran stopgap until Roberts returns.
The Chicago Cubs, one of the Orioles' favorite trade partners, could be a potential fit because they are seeking right-handed relief help and could move either former Oriole farmhand Mike Fontenot or Jeff Baker. With Matt Albers, Cla Meredith and Dennis Sarfate likely battling for one bullpen spot this spring, the Orioles have extra right-handed relievers.
Other second baseman who could be available include the Tampa Bay Rays' Elliot Johnson, the Minnesota Twins' Alexi Casilla, the Chicago White Sox's Jayson Nix, the Kansas City Royals' Alberto Callaspo, the Cleveland Indians' Mark Grudzielanek, the Cincinnati Reds' Chris Burke and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Augie Ojeda.
"You're always looking to improve the club," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said before his team's 8-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox Monday at City of Palms Park. "Andy has made it very clear that he'll look at all options available and I will concur with that."
For now, Trembley said that the Orioles will evaluate their internal options, which consist of Ty Wigginton, Robert Andino and Justin Turner. Middle infielder Miguel Abreu, who has had a nice spring, is not being considered and will start the season in the minor leagues, Trembley said.
"We need to do what we can with what we have right here in camp," Trembley said. "If something happens from outside the camp, we'll deal with it then. We still like to believe that Roberts will be our guy, but we're at the point now where we have to start thinking about the possibility and what we can do elsewhere. We're going to get Turner some more time at second, Andino, Wigginton. You'll see those three guys."
Wigginton has started two games at second this spring and handled all his chances flawlessly, including a nifty double-play that he started on Saturday against the New York Yankees. However, Trembley cautioned that it's way too early to make a judgment, especially on a player who isn't known for his defense. Wigginton hasn't played 40 or more games at second base since the 2006 season.
"It doesn't change anything," Wigginton said. "I worked my tail off this winter to get ready to play. That's the way I've been going about this whole spring anyway. "I just want to be in the lineup. If center field is where they want me, that's where I want to be."
Andino and Turner obviously would be more defensive-minded options, but their offense would provide question marks. Andino is a career .213 hitter in 342 career big-league at-bats, and hit .222 last year for the Orioles with two homers and 10 RBIs in 78 games.
Turner, 25, more than held his own offensively at Triple-A Norfolk last year, hitting .300 with two homers and 43 RBIs in 108 games. He's a career .307 hitter in the minor leagues. However, he has just 18 big-league at-bats and a bruised left foot has limited him to 12 Grapefruit League at-bats this spring. He does have hits in five of them.
"I hope it's nothing too serious with Brian, but I've got to keep doing the same thing," Turner said. "Obviously, he's a guy you expect to go out there and play every day. If something does happen and he's not ready to go out there for Opening Day, maybe that's a better opportunity for me to break camp with the team. But that has no affect on the way I go about my business and prepare for the season."