Injured O's and timelines
The Orioles should get a whole lot healthier over the next couple of weeks, although none of the injured players are scheduled to return on the nine-game homestand that starts Tuesday. Here is a rundown:
Outfielder Felix Pie (torn muscle in back): He'll play three games with the Gulf Coast Orioles, starting today, and then head north, where he'll probably join Single-A Frederick on Thursday or Friday. He'll play about seven total games for a combination of Frederick, Double-A Bowie and possibly Triple-A Norfolk, and if he gets through OK, he could be activated in time for the final road trip before the All-Star break, which starts Friday, July 2, in Boston. You'd have to think his activation will spell the end of seldom-used Lou Montanez, although that will mean that four of the Orioles' five outfielders are left-handed hitters (Pie, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott and Corey Patterson).
Reliever Michael Gonzalez (left shoulder strain): He's scheduled to throw another simulated game today, according to pitching coach Rick Kranitz. He then could pitch in a couple of Gulf Coast games before joining one of the Orioles' minor league affiliates in a week to 10 days. He could be ready at some point during the final road trip before the All-Star break if there are no setbacks. The Orioles' bullpen picture seemingly changes on a daily basis, but Matt Albers and Frank Mata would be the two guys at the highest risk of losing their roster spot. Mark Hendrickson has not pitched well, but the Orioles might want to keep him as the long man with Jason Berken pitching so well later in games.
Reliever Koji Uehara (right forearm strain): He's expected to throw a live bullpen session today, and if all goes well, he could get into some Gulf Coast games later this week or early next week. His return is probably the hardest to predict because of his extensive injury history, but it wouldn't be totally shocking to me if he's not ready until after the All-Star break. That, however, is just a guess.
Reliever Jim Johnson (slight tear in right elbow): He has been pain-free in his flat-ground sessions and could graduate to throwing off a mound at some point this week. He remains a ways away, with interim manager Juan Samuel saying yesterday that JJ probably wouldn't return until mid- to late July and after the All-Star break.
Second baseman Brian Roberts (herniated disk): Roberts has been shut down from any baseball activity for the time being. Samuel said in San Francisco that he had spoken to Roberts and estimated that he was four to six weeks away from a return. That means you are probably looking at August at the earliest. But there have been a lot of stops and starts in Roberts' situation, making this one difficult to predict as well.