FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -Troy Patton's bid to join the Baltimore Orioles' starting rotation has been slowed by a shoulder injury.
One of the young prospects acquired in the trade that sent Miguel Tejada to Houston, Patton has fallen behind the other contenders for the fifth starter's job.
``We're really going to have to take a conservative approach with him and be careful,'' Orioles manager Dave Trembley said Thursday. ``We have time in spring training for him to catch up, and I don't want to take a course of action where we rush him.''
The 22-year-old left-hander is being given an extra day's rest between bullpen sessions, and his status for the season is uncertain. He blames the tightness on not throwing for an extended period after the Astros shut him down in September, and it's believed that he has a tear in his labrum that could require surgery.
``They said most likely that it's a slap tear,'' Patton said. ``They know there's something going on in there, but they don't know how serious it is yet or what it is.''
Patton, who went 0-2 with a 3.55 ERA in three appearances in September as a rookie last season, is downplaying the possibility of surgery.
``I've been throwing fine so far. My bullpens have been decent. I'm pretty optimistic about being able to pitch this year,'' he said. ``It's pretty tight right now, but it's getting better every day. I'm doing a lot of stretching and a lot of exercises to strengthen it and get it looser.''
Baltimore acquired Patton along with outfielder Luke Scott, third baseman Mike Costanzo and pitchers Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate in December.
Scott entered camp as the starting left fielder. Sarfate is out of minor league options and likely will win a spot in the bullpen, with the possibility of closing later in the season. Albers is competing for a spot in the back end of the rotation or in the bullpen as a long and middle reliever. And Costanzo has drawn raves for his work ethic as he takes extra groundballs at third and first and works with the catchers for the first time in his professional career.
Notes: Second baseman Brian Roberts made a brief appearance in camp Thursday before heading to a doctor's appointment. Roberts was rushed to a local hospital around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday with severe stomach pain that might be related to a kidney stone. The Orioles are hopeful that he'll return to practice on Friday.

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