On the same night that Ryan Flaherty homered for the second consecutive game as the Orioles' starting second baseman, Brian Roberts watched from his Sarasota home and wondered if he would get the chance to reclaim his job.
Roberts remains on the 15-day disabled list after being diagnosed with a labral tear in his right hip. He hit some soft tosses again yesterday at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. He fielded ground balls, played catch, ran a little, did some lateral movements.
"I'm trying to test everything," he said, "but just on a small scale and with a scaled-back intensity level."
Roberts is trying to avoid season-ending surgery, and a decision is looming. It's a question of whether he can rehab the injury and tolerate whatever discomfort remains. He's sought a variety of medical opinions and received different recommendations.
"That's the reason why I'm going through this process," he said. "I've kind of had slightly mixed answers from doctors on whether I need it right now or whether to give it a shot at rehabbing and see if the symptoms flare back up. I decided that I wanted to try to get back this year if at all possible and contribute and be part of what's going on, but at the same time, I definitely want to be healthy moving forward. I'll navigate those waters and see where it takes us.
"Obviously, four to six months of rehab isn't something I'm looking forward to, but being hurt isn't what I had planned on after working as long as I did to get back."
After being shut down with the hip injury, Roberts was cleared to begin physical therapy exercises with Dave Walker, the Orioles' minor league medical coordinator. He eased back into baseball-related activities this weekend "to test it out and see how it feels," he said.
"The first day or two hasn't been bad," Roberts said. "The level of intensity is still relatively low at this point, but I haven't had any setbacks or anything."
Roberts said there's no firm timetable for informing the Orioles of his decision.
"I definitely don't have a drop-dead date or anything," he said. "We all want it to be sooner rather than later just because I want to give myself the best possible chance to be healthy moving forward. I think we should know in a reasonable amount of time. It's not going to be a two-month process, for sure, but it's not going to be a five-day process, either."
With a chuckle, Roberts added, "Maybe somewhere in between."
Roberts is batting .182/.233/.182 with five RBIs, five walks and a stolen base in 17 games. He hasn't played since July 1, when he felt pain in his groin during the final home game before the Orioles flew to Seattle.
"I don't know that it was one particular incident," he said. "All of a sudden, in the middle of the game, the second or third or fourth inning, my groin really started hurting. With a tear, sometimes it's an acute injury where you really know this is where you did it, or it can be one of those things where the symptoms continually build over time and it reaches the point where the inflammation is so bad, you can't play. That's what happened."
None of the baseball activities in Sarasota should threaten to erase all the hard work that allowed Roberts to return from his post-concussion symptoms. He doesn't need to hold back for fear of a relapse.
"There's nothing that I'm going to do that I haven't already gone through to get back from the concussion," he said. "Everything I did, I've already gone down those roads. There shouldn't be anything from the concussion aspect that will hold me back from deciding whether we can move forward without surgery or with it."
Limited to only 39 games last season, Roberts didn't make his 2012 debut until June 12. He never expected this sort of injury to take him away from his teammates, to isolate him again at the spring training complex, to shove him aside as the Orioles make an unexpected push toward the playoffs.
"It's a huge disappointment," he said. "I was having a lot of fun being back on the field and being able to play games again and be part of an opportunity to do something this organization hasn't done in 13, 14 years. The timing seemed so perfect, and then all of a sudden, to have something pop up that's really out of my control was definitely difficult for me to handle and still is.
"I'm trying my best to stay positive and believe I'm going to get through it. And whether that means I'll be back next month and play again or be healthy in 2013, I just don't know yet."