Notes: Roberts ready for injury-free '07
Second baseman feels great, talking extension with O's
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- There just wasn't enough time. Brian Roberts spent last spring racing against the clock to be physically ready for Opening Day, an effort that sapped him of his normal strength work. The switch-hitter's surgically repaired left elbow held up to the strain, but he never really felt he played up to his standards.
"There's no way to ever get to 100 percent when you start at 50. It's impossible," said Roberts, Baltimore's second baseman. "I really didn't start feeling great again until probably around December. But that's part of it. You go through those years. Everybody is going to play hurt at some point of his career.
"I learned a lot. I felt like I figured out how to get by and do the things that I needed to do to help the team. It was frustrating at times and hard at times."
Roberts said there were gamedays where he couldn't take batting practice because it would hurt too much, and he also said the spring work was too much, too soon. Roberts moved quickly from re-learning to catch the ball to taking full-fledged infield practice, and before he knew it, the regular season was testing him all over again.
This year, Roberts got to spend his winter lifting weights and working towards a return to his 2005 All-Star form.
"I feel like a whole different person, compared to last year," he said. "Strength-wise, I was a mess. I was about as weak as I could possibly be. But it feels good. I'm excited.
"I'm anxious to get going and go through a season healthy again."
Roberts and the Orioles are working on a multi-year contract extension that may or may not be completed by Opening Day. The 29-year-old said he'll let his agent, Mark Pieper, handle the negotiations. Eventually, if the talks don't progress, Roberts will set a cut-off date. But for now, he's happy with the tenor of the discussions.
"As I said, both sides want to get something done, so we'll make a just effort," he said.
"We've had more general conversations -- no specific offers back and forth lately," said Jim Duquette, Baltimore's vice president of baseball operations. "His agent also represents Erik Bedard. We agreed to get Bedard done, which we obviously have, and then regroup. It's one of those things -- they expressed it and then we agreed -- [that] we wouldn't want [discussions] lingering into the season."
Logjam: Kevin Millar reported to Baltimore's Spring Training facility Monday and addressed questions about the team's surplus of options at first base and designated hitter. The veteran said he had no problem competing for a job and didn't think the situation was as black-and-white as it has appeared in several media reports.
"It's the big leagues. There's competition. That's what it's about," he said. "Right now, everybody's got their lineups made. ... And you guys are going to write articles. A lot's going to happen in five or six weeks. Guys can get hurt, guys can make trades, and it always irons itself out. That's the one thing about baseball.
"Spring Training, everybody's trying to figure out, there's one bullpen spot, or [something else]. ... Last year we had the same thing with Javy Lopez and [Jeff] Conine and Millar. It's always the same thing. But my job is just to prepare myself and hit, and I'll be playing. It doesn't matter where. You just want to go to the plate."
Long-range tryout: The Orioles worked out Kazuaki Minami on Monday, giving the 25-year-old a chance to throw in front of pitching coach Leo Mazzone and most of the team's front office. Minami, who pitched two innings for the Yomiuri Giants in 2004, threw for about 10 minutes on the side mound at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.
"It looks like he had a pretty decent arm," Perlozzo said. "He had an assortment of pitches. I thought his slider was his best pitch. I didn't have a chance to talk to the rest of the guys about him. More arms mean more options and better chances."
Duquette acknowledged the team's rare foray into the Asian market and said the O's are trying to improve their reach outside the sport's traditional sphere of influence.
"We're trying to get more involved in the Japanese market, and this is a contact that we've developed over the last year and a half. And we wanted to at least get a look at him," Duquette said. "He's a guy that could probably pitch in the Minor Leagues if we wanted to go that route. I'm not sure that's a decision we're going to want to make.
"We'll know in the next day or so what we'll do. ... If nothing else, it was a worthwhile gesture to open up the lines of communication with the Japanese market."
Third opinion: Kris Benson met with noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Monday and is expected to announce soon whether he'll have season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. Each of Benson's prior two medical opinions has diagnosed the injury as a partially torn rotator cuff.
"I'm not sure when we're going to find out," Duquette said. "He's supposed to see Andrews later this afternoon. I don't expect to hear anything today, I really don't. If we did, it would be much later today. We might have something to talk about tomorrow. I wasn't really expecting to hear much today.
"Just knowing the way communication has been with that, it usually takes about a day to gather all the information."
Quotable: "Things were tough this offseason. He was going through those contract talks, so he had to sleep on the street." -- Millar on Roberts, who showed up to camp with a scraggly beard
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.