SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) - Sitting at his locker an hour before the Baltimore Orioles closed out the exhibition season against the Toronto Blue Jays, Derrek Lee was asked if he had gotten enough at_bats to be ready for opening day.
``There's no choice. We're playing Tampa Bay on April 1, so I'll be ready to go,' he replied.
If concrete evidence was needed to prove Lee's readiness, he supplied it by going 3 for 4 with an RBI in Baltimore's 7-4 loss Tuesday.
After agreeing to a one-year, $7.25 million contract as a free agent on Jan. 6, Lee didn't play in an exhibition game until March 19 because of a sore wrist. Then, in his first at-bat, he fouled a ball off his foot.
He ended up playing in only eight games this spring, but the last one was a keeper.
Lee doubled and scored in the first inning, singled in a run in the second and hit a leadoff double in the fourth. He struck out against David Purcey in his final at-bat.
Asked if he had finally found a groove, Lee replied, ``Yeah, I've been starting to feel a little better the last couple days and it definitely felt good. I'm seeing the ball good.'
Manager Buck Showalter agreed, saying, ``That's probably his best looks at the plate.'
Lee had surgery in November to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, an injury he sustained on opening day last year with the Chicago Cubs.
The cast caused Lee's wrist to atrophy, which led to soreness in spring training that forced the Orioles to shut him down and later restrict him to hitting soft toss and off a tee. X-rays and a magnetic resonance imaging test didn't reveal any structural damage, but Lee needed to reduce the inflammation before he could play.
It didn't exactly make for a fun spring.
``All's well that ends well,' Lee said. ``It was my first surgery, I didn't know what to expect coming off of it. So it took a little longer, well, actually it didn't take a little longer - I'm kind of right on schedule from what the doctor told me. I am ready to go for opening day.'
Adam Lind homered for the Blue Jays and Aaron Hill went 3 for 4 with three RBIs.
Toronto starter Brett Cecil allowed four runs and nine hits in four innings to finish 0-2 with a 5.96 ERA this spring.
``I'm happy where I'm at right now as far as going into the season, regardless of how many runs I gave up,' Cecil said.
After his last start, the left-hander was concerned about an inexplicable loss of velocity. He said his velocity felt better this time, but his command was off.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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