Leadoff item: Brian Roberts needs to stay healthy

Jorge Cantu is off the board after reportedly agreeing to a one-year deal with the Padres. I'll stop pitching him now.

It's not a certainty that the Orioles will bring in another utility candidate, but they could ink somebody to a minor league deal and toss him into the mix with Brendan Harris and Robert Andino.

As it currently stands, Cesar Izturis is the backup at second base if Brian Roberts is injured. He was re-signed to be the utility middle infielder.

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I'm fine with Izturis on the roster - not that the Orioles asked for my input - but I don't want him playing second base for an extended period.

I don't want anyone else playing second for an extended period.

Roberts is arguably the most important player in the lineup. He's the catalyst at the top, and one of the few players on this team who can steal a base. Lose him, and there's a trickle-down effect.

He's also a plus defender at second, and we saw enough double plays botched last season to fully understand his value with the glove.

The Orioles actually posted a winning record with Roberts in the lineup last season, going 30-28. Of course, they haven't finished above .500 since he came up to the majors in 2001, so I don't want to exaggerate his impact, but he needs to stay healthy.

I'm also hoping that Roberts will be re-energized with manager Buck Showalter in the dugout for a full season and the Orioles perhaps able to hang a little longer with the big boys in the division.

The other eight spots in the batting order are open to debate, but Roberts is your leadoff hitter. It's set in stone, as long as his body cooperates.

The last time we checked, Roberts reported that his back felt fine. He's expected to arrive at Ed Smith Stadium without any restrictions. The herniated disk is behind him, so to speak. Let's hope it stays that way, and he can avoid the rash of fluke injuries that included everything except a rash.

Roberts played in only four games last season before going on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle. He didn't return until July 23.

The Orioles need more than 59 games from Roberts this year.

Before closing this morning, I wanted to pass along news that the Sports Legends Museum will host "Corralin' the Colts," a reunion of the 1975, '76 and '77 Baltimore Colts teams, on March 6 at Martin's West. The event will run from 1-5 p.m., with proceeds benefitting the Fourth & Goal's efforts to assist retired NFL players.

If it's anything like Lydell Mitchell, it'll run up the middle.

Mitchell, Bert Jones and Bruce Laird are three of the ex-players scheduled to attend. Laird is president of Fourth & Goal.

The event will feature a bull and oyster roast, silent auction and autographs (at the player's discretion.) Tickets to the event are $60 apiece, and sponsorships are also available at varying levels.

To purchase tickets or to become a sponsor, call 410-727-1539 or visit www.BabeRuthMuseum.com.

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