Roberts more encouraged with each passing day

SARASOTA, Fla. - It's been a busy day here in camp, and it doesn't figure to quiet down. The Orioles might make cuts before or after today's game. Stay tuned.

Also, we're assuming that Dontrelle Willis threw a bullpen session, but he was doing stretching exercises by the time reporters reached the back fields. Manager Buck Showalter hopped in a golf cart and attempted to get over there in time, but he might have been too late. Pitching coach Rick Adair was on the scene.

"He's had some success," Showalter said. "I know his left-on-left numbers have been pretty good. It's another option to consider."

As for the difference between letting Clay Rapada go and possibly keeping Willis as a lefty specialist, Showalter said, "He's not on the roster. That's the big difference. There's some maneuverability there.

"It kind of came together last night, so I'm still kind of putting my arms around it right now."

Tsuyoshi Wada, Jason Berken and Darren O'Day are scheduled to pitch in a minor league game on Thursday while the Orioles travel to Fort Myers to play the Twins.

Showalter indicated that Nick Johnson will be viewed primarily as a designated hitter if he makes the club. Johnson also would be used at first base, but Showalter's first inclination is to use him as the DH.

"He's got to make the club first," Showalter said, "but I think initially DH with the opportunity to play first base."

It all hinges on Johnson's health.

"If he is healthy," Showalter said. "Believe me, we are not the first ones to be having this conversation about Nick, and he understands that, but some of the things he is feeling and seeing, you feel good about so far."

Second baseman Brian Roberts hasn't needed to take any days off, so that's a sign that he's having far more good days than bad. In fact, the bad days might be gone, though Roberts never provides exact details.

"I'm starting to continue to do a little more, starting to go out and watch some games and watch some innings and get in atmospheres and environments that I need to reacclimate to a little bit more." he said.

"If I was still sitting on the sidelines, I'd be a lot less hopeful. My doctor continues to tell me that there's very good reason for hope, so I don't see at this point any reason why I won't (play). It's just a matter of when."

Roberts certainly looks better in the cage.

"I mean, yeah, any time you at least get a couple weeks under your belt, you start to feel a little better than nine months of not being able to hold a bat," he said. "It wasn't so good at first, but it gets better and better. Repetition in general, everyone comes down to spring training needing repetition.

"There's nothing more I want to do than be on the field playing, but unfortunately, that's where we are right now and you just try to make the best of it, even though it's not exactly where you want to be. I have to realize that in this grand scheme of things, I'm a lot better than I was five months ago. It's easy to let that get lost in the shuffle."

Roberts will sit in the dugout today and watch at least a portion of his second game.

"First day, I watched a couple innings and it was good," he said. "Everything did look a little fast, for sure, but even on a day off when you watch a game, everything looks a lot faster than when you are playing, so it was good to get out there and kind of see some game speed stuff, track the ball and be in that sort of environment again."

The Orioles will break camp in a few weeks. Where will Roberts be at that time?

"I really haven't even sat down and discussed it with anybody at this point," he said. "At some point I will, but we haven't talked about it at all yet."

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