Roberts likely to return this weekend
Leadoff man has been on DL since April 10 with back injury
BALTIMORE -- It's looking increasingly like Brian Roberts will be activated this weekend -- possibly as soon as Friday -- and the Orioles second baseman has made it no secret that the sooner he returns, the better.
"If it were my decision, I would have played Monday," said Roberts, who stopped by the Orioles clubhouse on his scheduled off-day Thursday. "That's where you see how much decision-making [power] I have."
Interim manager Juan Samuel half-joked that he was worried an eager Roberts -- who offered to write Thursday's Orioles lineup -- would pencil his own name in the leadoff spot.
"He's done well [on rehab at Double-A Bowie]," Samuel said of Roberts, who hit .429 (6-for-14) with two doubles in three games this week. "He was challenged a little bit. I think he played nine innings at second base, he's swinging the bat very well. Like he stated, he's ready to go. We just have to make that [roster] spot available for him."
Given that Julio Lugo is the team's only backup for shortstop Cesar Izturis, infielder Scott Moore is the leading candidate to be taken off the 25-man roster. However, the 26-year-old Moore is out of options and would have to be exposed to waivers first. While corner infielders Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada have been subject of numerous trade rumors, both Samuel and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail have given no indication of a trade being in the works in such a short timeframe.
Of course, there is also the possibility the team holds off on activating Roberts -- who is on the 60 day DL with a herniated disc in his lower back -- perhaps until after a three-game set on Toronto's artificial turf early next week.
Samuel said earlier this week the team has to be smart about when to ease Roberts back in, and MacPhail agreed the playing surface at the Rogers Centre is "hardly ideal" in returning from a back injury.
"I think there is more made of turf than there really is to it," Roberts said. "You ask me, I think it is softer than that dirt out there [in the Camden Yards infield]. So I don't know. I think that is a bit of a preconceived notion that people have."
Roberts played three consecutive games at Bowie and said he accomplished everything he set out to do on the short rehab stint.
"I played two nine-inning games, one at 11 a.m. [ET]," Roberts said. "I figure if I can play at 7 [p.m.] and turn around and play at 11 [the next morning], I am doing all right. Obviously, seeing pitches, getting at-bats, things like that. I felt like I got out most of what I needed to."
With Roberts' return closing in, Samuel acknowledged the importance of having a premiere leadoff man and how much Roberts' return will benefit middle-of-the-order hitters Tejada and Nick Markakis.
"We've been using Corey [Patterson at leadoff], we've been using Felix Pie there," Samuel said. "Felix doesn't look very comfortable there. He seems more comfortable to be hitting down in the order. It's a mindset. Brian is a guy that works the count, takes pitches.
"Whenever the decision is made, we will definitely welcome Brian back. We know how much he means to our club in the leadoff spot."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.