Brian Roberts said he'll play second base and bat two or three times in his first few games at Double-A Bowie. He isn't sure how many games he'll play in a row or how often he'll be used as the designated hitter.
"It's essentially spring training, so it could be two days, it could be four days in a row. I don't really know yet," he said.
"As my doctor likes to say, it's a fluid situation, so we're just going to play it by ear each day."
Roberts indicated yesterday that he could begin his rehab assignment within the next few weeks, but manager Buck Showalter revealed this afternoon that Roberts would report to Bowie tomorrow.
"I was lying to you. No, I'm just kidding," Roberts said laughing.
"We wanted to get through one more day. We had this tentatively scheduled for a while, but the more people know about it, the more pressure there is. If for some reason you needed an extra day or two, we didn't want to have to deal with the repercussions or all the questions of why or if there's something majorly wrong. We had this date in mind for a little bit and we wanted to make sure we were ready."
Roberts hasn't played in a game since May 16, 2011 because of concussion symptoms that often left him doubting whether he'd ever step back on a field. Whether he'd ever lead a normal life.
How does he expect to feel tomorrow night?
"Excited, scared, a little bit of everything," he said. "It's been a long time coming, for sure. Sometimes, it feels like two days and sometimes it feels like 10 years, but I'm extremely excited. I'm grateful for our organization, our team doctors, my doctor in Pittsburgh, Dr. Collins, Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick, all these guys who have put so much time and energy and effort into helping me get back. Certainly, my family and my wife, and most importantly, God for giving me the opportunity to get back out there and play again.
"I have no idea what the future holds still, but I'm excited to see."
Roberts isn't sure whether the long layoff and the past concussion symptoms will change him as a player.
"Standing here today, I can't say I'm going to be Brian Roberts tomorrow," he said. "I'm not going to be going out there tomorrow and running into walls, but I am going to get out there and it's going to be a progression. And I hope that by the time I rejoin our major league team, that yes, I will be the same guy I was five years ago.
"That doesn't mean you might not make some minor adjustments here and there, but at the same time, I want to be on the field and I want to be helping the team, whatever that looks like."
The rehab assignment lasts 20 days and Roberts will use all of it.
"It's been over a year and I need to get some at-bats," he said. "I stood in on some bullpen sessions and it looks pretty fast, so I need to get in there and see some pitches. The first few days, the first week, it's probably only going to be two at-bats a day or three at-bats maybe toward the end of that week, so it's going to take a little while to build up to being ready to play every day on a back-to-back day situation, play 18 innings and get 10 at-bats and that sort of thing. So, we're going to use up as much time as we can."
Is there real apprehension, or does Roberts feel like he's cleared enough hurdles?
"I kind of related it to seven years ago when I hurt my arm. I had apprehension then," he said. "Even though the doctors and everyone told me that I was OK, you're still scared. That's just the nature of going back out into a competitive environment when you've been hurt or you've had this sort of thing. Hopefully, once I get on the field and the first pitch is thrown, it'll just be playing baseball again.
"I wouldn't have missed a year if it wasn't very serious and it wasn't something that you don't play around with. We've seen that through, unfortunately, a lot of tragic things in recent months and years with guys, especially football players. My doctor wasn't going to let the emotion of, the Orioles are 10 games above .500, we need to rush this thing. As a professional, he was going to make sure I was ready before I went back out there, and I think we're at that point and he thinks we're at that point. That's the only reason I'm going out to Bowie."
Roberts has been diving for ground balls during infield drills, which was a major hurdle. His symptoms came back after he dived into first during that May 16, 2011 game at Fenway Park, so he might have to adjust the way he normally steals bases.
"I can't necessarily address stealing bases and how I'll be sliding the first time I go," he said. "I've been working on trying to get more comfortable sliding feet-first stealing bases, just because I've had people tell me long before this injury that head-first isn't the safest or best way to go sometimes. Maybe I'll make some adjustments and slide feet-first a little more often. I don't know. It's going to be one of those situations that keeps evolving, and every day that I go out there, I'll get more and more comfortable, I'm sure."