Lee: "I don't foresee it being too much longer"

SARASOTA, Fla. - Derrek Lee took batting practice for the third straight day as he draws closer to playing in his first exhibition game.

Lee can't pinpoint when he'll debut for the Orioles, but his surgically repaired right thumb is responding well to the BP sessions and fielding drills.

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"Hopefully soon," he said. "Today was the third day in a row hitting off coaches and it's still feeling good. I don't see a reason to keep delaying it. I'm still going to be cautious, but I'm anxious to get in a game. I'm not that far behind because they've only played one game, but you don't want to start falling too much further behind.

"I'm pretty encouraged by the way it's progressing."

Lee said he's "playing it by ear" right now.

"I don't want to get too far ahead of myself," he said. "I literally wake up and see how it feels and come up with a game plan from there. I don't foresee it being too much longer. As soon as I feel like I can play, I'm not going to wait too long, so hopefully soon."

Lee said he'll wear a protective guard on his thumb when running the bases to avoid jamming it on a base.

Meanwhile, the sun is trying to peek through the clouds here. The facility looks great, and there's no mistaking which team resides in Sarasota.

If you needed another reminder, the trash cans on the concourse have oversized Orioles batting helmets on them.

Bird of Paradise flowers are being handed out to every woman who enters the ballpark. Yes, they're orange.

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