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09/06/09 7:06 PM ET

Roberts shines in role as leading man

Veteran second baseman wields tools of speed and power

BALTIMORE -- Dave Trembley claims he has one of the best leadoff men in baseball. And for good reason.

Brian Roberts is routinely among the league leaders in stolen bases, and he reaches base nearly 35 percent of the time. Roberts needs just one double to reach 50 for the second consecutive year and the third time since 2004. Roberts went 2-for-5 in Sunday's 7-0 win over the Rangers, but both of his hits were singles.

In reaching the 50-double plateau for the third time, Roberts will join Hall of Famers Tris Speaker, Paul Waner and Stan Musial as the only players to do so. Speaker had five 50-double seasons.

"I'm sure when I look back on it, when it's all said and done, then maybe it'll be something cool to tell your grandkids or something," Roberts said. "The numbers are what they are to me. They're not the end of the world. To be in the company with those three guys would be an honor and would be something really cool."

It's that kind of gap power and pop that makes Roberts such a valuable leadoff man. But Sunday was his first game in the past three in which he actually hit first.

"That's obviously where I'm comfortable," he said. "To tell you the truth, it really doesn't matter to me one way or another."

Roberts found one difference, though -- life is less hectic batting third in the first inning.

"I just don't have to rush as much in the first inning," he said with a grin. "That's about it."

After receiving a four-year, $40 million contract extension this winter, Roberts has been on a roller-coaster ride, battling through three lengthy slumps.

But despite the cold spells and his perceived lack of interest at times, he will again be among the league's top offensive second basemen at the end of the year.

"We were in Minnesota, and ... on the scoreboard, they had where Roberts' [statistical pace] was in 2008, where he was in 2009," Trembley said. "They had all his numbers up there. He's having a better year offensively."

Roberts finished Sunday's action batting .284 with 49 doubles, 14 homers, 65 RBIs and 27 stolen bases. In 2008, he batted .296 with 51 doubles, nine homers and 57 RBIs.

"I know I've batted him third a few times out of necessity, but I'll go back and say it: He's one of the top leadoff hitters in the American League. No question about it," Trembley said. "He scores runs. He gets on base and scores runs. He gets big hits. He's got 60 RBIs out of the leadoff spot. He's picked up a lot of runs with two-out hits, picking up the bottom of the lineup. He really has."

Sean Welsh is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.