- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

CLEARWATER, Fla. | The Baltimore Orioles have had their starting lineup intact this spring — except for Derrek Lee.

After spending the winter recovering from surgery on a ligament in his right thumb, Lee has yet to play in a game, and doesn’t know when he will.

The first baseman, who signed a one-year contract with Baltimore early this year, reports that the thumb has healed, but now his right wrist is bothering him, and doesn’t want to predict when his Orioles debut might come.

“I’m not doing days. I’m just taking it day by day. Really nothing new,” Lee said Tuesday morning in Sarasota.

The area above Lee’s wrist is wrapped with a protective bandage, and he’s clearly frustrated by the delay.

“It’s a process. It’s unexpected. It’s a process I’ve never been through. I thought once my thumb was fine, I was in the clear,” said Lee, 35. “You kind of have a weak hand and you start doing activities and this.”

Lee was scheduled to see Dr. Brian Schofield, a hand surgeon in Sarasota, on Tuesday afternoon.

Manager Buck Showalter doesn’t want to predict when Lee’s first appearance might come.

“It’s nothing to the (thumb) surgery side, that feels great,” manager Buck Showalter said before the Orioles game with Philadelphia.

“I don’t want to say tendinitis until they diagnose it. He’s going to see a specialist in Sarasota just to make sure we know what we are dealing with.”

Showalter said Lee’s first game isn’t “imminent,” but remains unconcerned.

“We’re OK. I really like the fact that the actual surgery and all that feels real good,” Showalter said.

“This is a little something different. You have something that inactive that long, all of a sudden you start doing other things, sometimes it kind of flares up a little bit. I think we will have a better idea at the end of the day what we are dealing with,” Showalter said.

Lee hurt the thumb on Opening Day last year, but still managed to hit 19 home runs and 80 RBIs in 148 games with Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs last year.

The Orioles are hoping that the Lee they’ll get when healthy is closer to the one that hit .306 with 35 home runs and 111 RBIs with the Cubs in 2009.

With his return uncertain, Lee said he needs “about 20, 30 at-bats” to prepare himself for the rigors of the season.

“I don’t know. It’s just a guess. I don’t know the exact number. You’d like to get some at-bats before the season gets going. I don’t think you need the 60 you normally get,” Lee said.

Showalter agrees with Lee’s estimate and can’t wait to have him back.

“Oh yeah, we’ll go along with what Derrek feels like for the most part. He’s been through quite a few spring trainings as a major league hitter. I’d lean on him for that,” Showalter said.

Without Lee, the Orioles have no obvious backup at first. Showalter has started Jake Fox, Josh Bell, Brendan Harris, Luke Scott and Joe Mahoney at first during spring training. Bell and Mahoney have never played first in the majors. Fox, Harris and Scott have a combined 55 games at first.


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