Injured Oriole Roberts could miss Opening Day

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts could miss the Baltimore Orioles' season opener because of the elbow injury that cut short his finest season in the major leagues five months ago.

The Orioles' leadoff hitter set career highs in batting average (.314), homers (18) and RBI (73) before dislocating his left elbow in a collision at first base during a Sept. 20 game against the New York Yankees. Roberts also tore a tendon and a ligament on the play, which he steadfastly refuses to view on replay.

He expects to field grounders when the Orioles' full squad practices for the first time Tuesday, but his work with a bat will be restricted to swinging off a tee.

"My ultimate goal is still to play Opening Day. That's what I'd like to do. Still, we don't know for sure what it's going to be, at this point," Roberts said Monday. "If I play Opening Day, it would be awesome, but if it happens to be two weeks later, I understand that you have to do what's right. Injuries are a part of it, unfortunately."

Roberts is "very positive and very excited" about the progress he's made over the past month but has no intention of doing anything foolish just to be ready to face Tampa Bay in the April 3 opener at Camden Yards.

"It's still early, and you don't want to go out there and kill yourself," he said. "There comes a point where you have to go out there and do what it takes to get ready. It's a fine line, figuring out how much you need to do and how much you can't do at the time."

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo is advocating a cautious approach.

"We'll take it easy, let him ease his way into it," Perlozzo said. "We'll just move it along at his pace."

Asked if he thought Roberts would be ready by Opening Day, Perlozzo replied, "We'll just have to see how it goes. We're all hopeful that's the case. We don't want to push him. If anything, we'll probably have to pull the reins back on him a little bit."