One month ago today, Baltimore Orioles catcher Lenny Webster went on the disabled list with a seemingly simple sprained ankle. While he is getting close to returning to action, possibly beginning a minor league rehabilitation assignment in a week, he also wonders whether his return will be to the Orioles or another club.

Webster, 34, suspects the Orioles will try to trade him this season, possibly by the time he returns from the disabled list. Webster becomes a free agent after this season, and said the Orioles have made no attempt to re-sign him.

"If they wanted to keep me, they would have talked to me or my agent by now," Webster said.

With Webster's return taking longer than expected, the Orioles claimed Mike Figga off the waiver wire June 3 to back up Charles Johnson. Figga has made two starts -- with another one likely on Monday -- and has not been used off the bench.

Webster's rehabilitation assignment in Class AA Bowie or Class A Frederick could begin after this week's home series against Kansas City, when the Orioles go back on the road.

Webster would embrace a trade. He had the best offensive season of his career last season -- a .285 batting average, 10 homers and 46 RBI -- while splitting time with Chris Hoiles. He thinks he can be a starting catcher somewhere.

Baltimore "is the greatest place to play," Webster said. "I love playing here. But my desire to play outweighs all else."

The only thing slowing Webster's recovery is the crouching duties of catching. He has been hitting, throwing, running and doing agility drills. Still, Manager Ray Miller said today, "I didn't expect [Webster's return] to take this long."

Miller to Belle: Take It Easy

Miller said he has spoken with right fielder Albert Belle about scaling back his grueling hitting routine, which normally includes early batting practice, regular batting practice and even hitting between innings.

Belle did not take regular batting practice Saturday or today. "His work ethic is very good," Miller said. "But if you've exhausted everything and you continue to stay with a strenuous program that isn't working, maybe you should adjust it a little bit just for the change."

CAPTION: Lenny Webster, right, is close to returning to lineup after spraining his ankle, but is unsure if Orioles will keep him.