DALLAS -- The Orioles aren't actively pursuing other second-base options, and the tentative hope remains that veteran Brian Roberts (concussion) will be able to stay healthy and on the field starting next spring.
Manager Buck Showalter said that Roberts is progressing by doing baseball activities "on and off" and there have been very few -- if any -- setbacks in that regard. But given the nature of Roberts' injury, things could change on a daily basis
"This is an inexact thing," Showalter said. "I can't sit here and act like I'm an expert on concussions. ... We learn something every day. So far, so good. I fully expect Brian is going to come into camp and see how he feels and see how things go."
Roberts has been hampered by back and head injuries each of the past two seasons and appeared in just 39 games in 2011, never returning after sliding headfirst into the first-base bag at Boston in mid-May. If the O's don't have Roberts healthy at the start of next season, utility man Robert Andino and new acquisition Matt Antonelli figure to be the two top candidates to step in at second.
Andino is coming off a solid 2011 campaign in which he set new career highs in several offensive categories, while Antonelli was signed as a free agent last month.
O's winter activity could set Johnson's role
DALLAS -- While reliever Jim Johnson remains one of the most sought-after players currently on the Orioles, the right-hander has versatility that makes him even more valuable for Baltimore.
"Jimmy is a luxury [in] that he's capable of doing both [starting or relieving]," manager Buck Showalter said on Monday at the Winter Meetings. "He's established. I think he's another guy that turned the corner last year, especially the way he pitched in September in very meaningful games against good competition in our division. It's very obvious, but I think other people saw it, too, and could tell."
The Orioles would have to be blown away with an offer to part with Johnson, who could assume the closer's role -- given Kevin Gregg's struggles -- if he's not moved to the starting rotation. While Johnson has had some arm issues in the past, having missed most of 2010 with right elbow inflammation, Showalter said he's talked with Johnson and that the right-hander said he would be willing to assume either role.
"A lot has to do with what we do between now and then," Showalter said of Johnson's role, which the pitcher will know before arriving at Spring Training. "What presents itself might change that. ... That's why it's such a key piece, because now it could go either way."
The Orioles, like essentially every other Major League club, are in the market for pitching. Given the nature of their discussions early in the offseason, Showalter said it would be easier to build a bullpen and obtain relief pitching than to try to pry capable starters from other teams.
Buck doesn't expect O's to vie for Fielder
DALLAS -- While executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette didn't totally dismiss the notion of the Orioles being interested in free-agent slugger Prince Fielder, all signs point to it being highly unlikely that the coveted first baseman will end up in Baltimore.
Asked as soon as he sat down to meet with the media whether the O's expect to sign Fielder, Showalter smiled and said, "No. Leave that to the big boys."
An organizational source said that Fielder didn't even come up in the Orioles' Monday morning briefing, and it's no secret that Baltimore is focused almost entirely on upgrading its pitching staff.
Fielder is expected to command a hefty price tag on the free-agent market, and the Orioles will most likely keep Mark Reynolds at first base to open the 2012 season.
Manager Buck Showalter said there isn't necessarily a need for the Orioles to go out and sign a big-name designated hitter, as they could always use more bench depth and rotate guys like Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones as the DH to give them a half-day off. ... Speaking of Markakis, he is nearly 100 percent healthy, and Showalter said the team has plans for him to see a specialist just to make sure they are taking all of the proper precautions. In the final few weeks of the season, Markakis was dealing with a pelvic/lower-abdomen injury that's being described as a deep bone bruise. ... The need for another outfielder to back up Jones in center field and possibly platoon in left is another need, although it's not on the front burner, since the Orioles are actively pursuing pitching. Given Showalter's remarks, it seems the club would prefer to opt for a platoon with Nolan Reimold -- who could still win the left-field job outright -- and the most obtainable pitching will come in relief.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.