BALTIMORE — Playing his first major league game in over a year when he took the field against Pittsburgh on June 12, second baseman Brian Roberts made it look like he had never left with a 3-for-4 night.
However, the 34-year-old has struggled to find his footing since his first five games when he went 7-for-22 with four runs batted in. Going back to the start of the New York Mets series on June 18, Roberts is just 4-for-34 (.118) with three walks and six strikeouts as the Orioles have scored only 14 runs over their last nine games.
Manager Buck Showalter was asked if he thinks the extended time away from baseball has factored heavily into Roberts’ early struggles.
“I hope so. He’s had 55, 60 at-bats in over a year,” Showalter said. “He’ll be a contributor here. He’s aware; he knows when it’s right and when it’s not. He’ll get there, and we’ll reap the benefits of it when he does. He’s already done some good things for us early on and he will again.”
Roberts is hitting just .196 in 61 plate appearances and has yet to collect an extra-base hit, which is concerning when remembering the second baseman regularly hit 40 or more doubles per season over the course of his career.
Many wondered what impact his well-documented concussion-related issues would have on his aggression in the running game, but his struggles at the plate have prevented observers from really drawing any conclusions in that facet of the game. Roberts has only tried to steal one base and was thrown out against the Mets on June 19.
His fielding has been solid, though not spectacular in a limited number of games at second base. Roberts has committed one error while showing proficiency in turning the double play.
“We’ve got to keep in mind that things like that just don’t happen overnight,” Showalter said. “I think Brian’s got a real respect for the level of play. It’s the best players in the world, and nobody cares about some of the challenges guys may have had physically. But he’ll make somebody play for it eventually.”
Of course, it’s difficult to nitpick Roberts’ performance when a number of regulars who haven’t missed a year of time have struggled mightily over the last two weeks. It would be far more interesting to observe what the tone would be regarding the veteran if former starter Robert Andino had been hitting better prior to Roberts’ return earlier this month.
Showalter still views Roberts as his best option in the leadoff spot, which is hardly surprising considering how much difficulty the Orioles have had finding anyone else to handle the role with any level of proficiency over the last two seasons he missed extended time. The Baltimore manager still views Roberts as one of the best in the game at the top of the order.
“You put him on any team and that’s where they’d want to hit him for the most part,” Showalter said. “We’re lucky to have him back. It’ll happen.”
Roberts was hitless in his last 15 at-bats entering Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians.