Roberts starts progression toward opener

SARASOTA, Fla. - Second baseman Brian Roberts returned to the clubhouse after visiting a back specialist today. He described his back as feeling "much better, definitely. Quite a bit better." And he remains hopeful of starting the April 1 opener after assuring reporters following yesterday's MRI that the discomfort wasn't related to his herniated disk.

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"Saw the doc today and got good, encouraging news, so I'll start to try to progress starting today," Roberts said. "He just said that it was nothing glaringly new or anything, so hopefully I've gotten the inflammation that was causing the discomfort calmed down and I now move on.

"I started having some neck discomfort in January and it just never really went away. And then I had some spasms in my back last Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. And those two things combined, we decided to just see what was going on."

Roberts admitted that his mind raced back to last spring and the issues that limited him to 59 games.

"I think it's probably normal to have some of those feelings, but I just tried to stay positive. I didn't think there was anything crazy wrong, but there was enough going on that I needed to get it taken care of," he said.

"Last year was 100 times worse. This is nothing like last year."

Roberts won't project a return date to the lineup.

"It's just going to be a progression starting today," he said. "We're not necessarily going to put days on it just because of you guys (reporters), but my goal and my hope is to still play opening day, but it'll just be a progression and we'll see how it goes."

"I think we all know if you miss two or three games as opposed to last year, then we're in a better situation, but we're just going to take it a day at a time right now."

Roberts hasn't played since diving into first base in the first inning of a March 7 game against the Yankees.

"I was already having some discomfort before then," he said. "That probably magnified it, but I was struggling before that."

Roberts won't alter the way he plays.

"I don't think I have to necessarily," he said. "The doctor didn't say I had anything that was going to cause me to play any differently. No different than anybody else who has a flare up of something."

Asked how many at-bats he'll need before the opener, Roberts replied, "You can get 75 at-bats and feel terrible, and you can get 20 and feel great. I think it'll all depend where I'm at in the process."

As for any realizations that he'll be dealing with back issues for the rest of his life, Roberts said, "It has nothing to do with last year, so I don't have any reason to think this will be the rest of my life. Totally different area."

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