Could Roberts’ return be unlikeliest chapter of surprising season for Orioles?

May 22, 2012 | Luke Jones

After playing just 98 games over the last two seasons, Roberts shouldn’t be handed his old job automatically, but the many stating Andino should keep the starting job are overlooking the impact Roberts brings to the field as a leadoff hitter and at second base when healthy.

Andino has become a fan favorite with his heroics against the Boston Red Sox at the end of last season and the “Curse of the Andino” moniker created as a result, but we’re not talking about Lou Gehrig replacing Wally Pipp in this instance. The 28-year-old Andino is a solid second baseman, but to suggest his .681 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) automatically trumps a healthy Roberts (career .769 OPS) is a stretch — even after what has been essentially a two-year layoff for the veteran.

Realistically speaking, it’s unlikely that Roberts will be the same player he once was. Even putting aside the chronic concussion-related symptoms, middle infielders on the wrong side of 30 tend to deteriorate at a fairly moderate rate. But if Roberts is able to play at a level even remotely close to where he once was, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be afforded the opportunity to play on a regular basis — even if that means replacing Andino in some instances.

Having two viable options at second base is a good problem for Showalter to have, not a conflict in which you draw a line in the sand. Given the Orioles’ uncertainty at third base and how the designated hitter spot hasn’t been nailed down by one player, there’s no reason to think the manager can’t find prominent roles for both Roberts and Andino if the situation present itself.

With his age and health concerns, Roberts could easily serve as the designated hitter at times while also playing his share of games at second base. This would allow Andino to continue to receive some starts at his current position while occasionally filling in at third to give the Orioles a strong defensive option at the hot corner.

Again, these scenarios still remain in question as we don’t know how Roberts will respond to his first live-game action in over a year. But it’s clear Roberts has his sights set on becoming the player he used to be.

“When it comes to winning my job back, whatever Buck wants me to do, I’ll do,” Roberts said. “I’d love for this team to be playing in October, and if I’m sitting on the bench then — I guess — so be it. I’d like to think he’s going to run me out there when I’m ready.”

Roberts still has plenty of work to do to get to that point and it’s still difficult for even his strongest supporters to believe it will actually happen, but what was once little more than an impossible dream appears more realistic than ever.

In a season full of surprises and unexpected success, Roberts’ return to the field might just be the unlikeliest chapter of all.

And one the Orioles would gladly embrace.

4 Comments For This Post

  1. Carl Says:

    I’m more than a little confused about his “concussion” diagnosis.

    If incidental concussions were truly the problem the media is making it out to be, by extension, we must also agree that every amateur and professional boxer, most MMA, and preponderance of rugby and hockey players should also have “concussions” like Roberts.

    The sport of boxing centers primarily around punching your opponent in the head, As such why aren’t most boxers and MMA’s profoundly disabled?

    So, if incidental concussions like the one Roberts has cause this type of brain damage, doesn’t this mean we should outlaw boxing, MMA, and other forms of martial arts?
    I suppose my point is, perhaps Roberts has something more profoundly wrong with him than simply a concussion. Perhaps the concussion sparked a latent problem which was already there? Could be a blood clot or minor stroke, or something we haven’t a diagnosis for?

    I wish Brian Roberts the best and do hope he returns.

    (L.J. – I’ve always wondered if there was something else going on neurologically for Roberts to experience those symptoms for such a long time, but post-concussion syndrome isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” condition and there are plenty of cases of it lasting for a year or more. Of course, I’m not a doctor, but what Roberts has experienced isn’t completely unfounded even if it is rare.)

  2. Scott Says:

    IF Roberts comes back, he will not replace Andino. If he can prove that he is healthy, the Orioles will either trade him for pitching or put him in a rotation at third base.

    (L.J. – No one is trading for Brian Roberts with his contract, and he won’t be learning a new position. Andino already knows how to play there. Roberts won’t just have his job handed back to him, but he will have the opportunity to earn it with his play.)

  3. Unitastoberry Says:

    Either way know one knows if he can still play? He’s old and hardly had any playing time for 2 yrs. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

  4. Steve Says:

    He could be a pinch runner in late game situations. But if he does a great job at that O’s might get a good trade for him in the offseason

    (L.J. – If he proves able to play, he will play way more than that. And no one is trading for Brian Roberts unless the Orioles pay most of his salary. Really not even worth debating at this point truthfully.)

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