Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron
February 23, 2011
Welcome to the third annual Brian Roberts spring health question. Like last year, this one is tied to whether he can rebound from a concussion.
In the past two seasons, the 34-year-old second baseman has started a total of just 98 games. First, it was a herniated disk in his back that limited him in the first part of 2010 and then the concussion, which originally occurred when Roberts hit himself on the helmet with a bat in September 2010. He aggravated the concussion sliding into first base last May.
Roberts' value to the team is undeniable, especially as a leadoff hitter and offensive sparkplug. And he has said repeatedly this offseason that he is working his way toward being back on the field this April.
But it has come to the point where the Orioles view Roberts as a luxury — they proceeded this offseason as if he wouldn't be able to play. Duquette added Matt Antonelli, Rule 5 draft pick Ryan Flaherty and minor leaguer Steve Tolleson to a second base mix that includes Ryan Adams and Robert Andino.
The Orioles would like to see Andino get 400-plus at-bats in various spots throughout the infield, but for now, he is most likely choice to be the club's regular second baseman.
Who would replace Roberts at leadoff is a bigger mystery. When in the lineup, fourth outfielder Endy Chavez could do it. Andino is also a possibility and so might be Hardy, who is not a fan of leading off but will do it if necessary.
The bottom line is the Orioles really hope Roberts, who has two years and $20 million remaining on his contract, can return to form. But they aren't counting on it.