Roberts improving, but unsure when he'll return
Second baseman taking it day by day, hopes to avoid setbacks
SARASOTA, Fla. -- It's no secret the Orioles are a better team with Brian Roberts, a fact that doesn't escape any member inside the team's clubhouse, least of all the second baseman himself. But in speaking with the media Friday afternoon, Roberts, who is the club's longest-tenured player and has been dealing with a concussion, couldn't any make any guarantees as he continues a progression with no timetable for a return.
"I don't go backwards any more, and I don't go too far forward," said Roberts, who is encouraged with each passing good day. "At this point, I wake up, and it's Friday morning, and that's today, and I say, 'This is going to be a great day. I'm going to do everything that they allow me to do today.' And tomorrow morning -- Saturday morning -- I'm going to do the same thing. If that results in me being in Baltimore on April 6 [for Opening Day], I will be grateful. If that ends up being some other day, then so be it. But at this point, I take it day by day -- as cliche as that is."
Roberts took the field with the rest of his teammates for the Orioles' first full-squad workout Friday, stretching and playing catch with shortstop J.J. Hardy before heading inside as the team started defensive work. Roberts is not taking grounders or full swings yet, and he is mostly playing catch, hitting off the tee and doing some light lifting. There is no way of estimating when he will progress to other activities, because he doesn't want to push things too far and have a setback.
"That's hard mentally -- that they can't tell you [a timeline]," Roberts said. "Almost every night [with the doctors], we go through what I did that day and what I want to accomplish the next day. Based on how you're feeling, you kind of move along with that."
For the Orioles, they have no choice but to move on. Robert Andino took the majority of reps at second base on Friday, and manager Buck Showalter feels the best approach is to look at Roberts' potential presence as an added bonus.
"We can't have our season's success or failure rest on whether or not he starts the season," said Showalter, who sat alongside Roberts while speaking Friday. "I think everybody knows it's a given if he's playing what he means to us, but we got to attack it as a team and an organization like he isn't.
"There's not many free agents out there that you can add to your club like a healthy Brian Roberts, so we're hoping we get that bump. But that just increases the pressure on him and what have you. I don't want him back until he's right. ... We've got to make him feel comfortable being honest about it."
Roberts is unsure if he'll change the way he plays when he returns. Roberts remains optimistic -- as do his doctors -- that he will be able to progress enough to take the field again and play in the Major Leagues, although this process has taught him there's more to life than baseball.
"I love the game to death; I do," Roberts said. "It's given me and afforded me a lot of great opportunities in life, a lot of great memories, a lot of great relationships, a lot of great moments, but I live by my faith. I trust that God has a plan for my life. I think it goes a lot farther than baseball for me.
"[This injury] put it in perspective for me that I probably haven't had it put in perspective for a long time -- to know that this can be taken away from you every day."
Another difficult part about Roberts' injury has been the time away from his teammates the past two seasons. Showalter, who spoke at length with Roberts on Thursday, said he was more excited than he wanted to admit for Thursday night's team bonding exercise, and Roberts called being part of a team like "nothing else in the world."
"The camaraderie and having each other's backs and supporting each other and caring about each other and enjoying the ups and even the downs, I miss that enormously," Roberts said. "There's nothing that can replace that, and you only have a short window to do that. And to think you're missing out on any of that in that short window you have to go out there and play Major League baseball is very difficult."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.