Roberts to test ailing back Friday

SARASOTA, Fla. -- After spending much of spring training seeing doctors and doing mundane exercises, Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is finally ready to play in a baseball game.

Roberts will test his ailing back in a game for the first time this spring when the Orioles face the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

It's a significant step for Roberts, who has been bothered for months by a herniated disk in his lower back. He returned to Baltimore last week to see Dr. Lee Riley at Johns Hopkins Hospital and get an epidural injection.

Roberts still hopes to start in the Orioles' opener against Tampa Bay on April 6.

Manager Dave Trembley said Thursday that Roberts will be in the starting lineup against the Twins. The team will then evaluate his health before deciding whether to play the second baseman in back-to-back games.

"I'd like to take it one day at a time," Trembley said. "I don't want to get too far ahead of myself and come out and say he's going to play the next three or four days in a row. What I'm saying today is he's going to play tomorrow and then we'll see where we're at."

Roberts was also bothered by stomach virus this spring.

Ty Wigginton has been playing second base for Baltimore in Roberts' absence and Felix Pie has sharing time with Nolan Reimold in the leadoff spot. Wigginton made several fine plays in the field Thursday against the New York Yankees, scooping up two sharply hit grounders and making a running catch with his back to the plate to rob Marcus Thames of a potential hit.

Roberts, 32, has spent his entire career with Baltimore. He made the AL All-Star team in 2005 and 2007, and last year set a major league record for doubles in a season by a switch-hitter (56).

He achieved career highs in runs (110) and RBIs (79) in 2009 and was voted the team MVP in balloting by the media.

Roberts is entering the first season of a $40 million, four-year contract extension he signed in February 2009.