When I spoke with Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts over the winter, he made it clear that he had no intention of retiring after the 2013 season. And he confirmed his desire to continue playing while meeting with reporters at his locker in spring training.
It may not be with the Orioles, he said, but he wants to play.
Roberts’ contract runs out after this season. He can become a free agent. And his chances of returning to the Orioles seemed nonexistent before he came off the disabled list on June 30.
Now, it’s worth debating.
Roberts has risen to the top of the order after batting ninth in 30 games. He’s playing excellent defense and moving side to side as he did before the concussion and assorted injuries. He’s more aggressive in the field, if that makes sense, than I’ve seen in a while.
“I think I’m seeing the same thing you’re seeing,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy. “He’s been super consistent. He’s making a lot of good plays. Ranging up the middle, having to make long throws, turning double plays quick. He’s doing everything. He’s doing a great job.”
Roberts underwent surgery on May 9 to repair one of the muscles in his hamstring after suffering the injury in the third game of the season on a stolen base at Tropicana Field. Plenty of fans were rolling their eyes. The entire baseball industry seemed to pull the sheet over his career.
“He still feels pain,” Hardy said. “Of course, we all do. Anytime you have surgeries and stuff like that. He’s grinding through it and he’s doing a fantastic job at it.”
Roberts still may go feet-first into a base, a recommended technique after the concussion symptoms threatened to end his career, but that seems to be the only concession.
The Orioles envision Jonathan Schoop as the eventual second baseman, though they have no proof that he can handle those responsibilities. His back injury this summer stalled the evaluation process, and he’s still waiting to make his major league debut.
It could be a long wait, with the Orioles in a pennant race.
Ryan Flaherty could take the job or be used more as a utility player. Or the Orioles could negotiate another deal with Roberts, one that’s significantly more modest than the four-year, $40 million contract that he signed.
Would you be OK with the Orioles re-signing Roberts, ignoring how many games he’s missed over the last four seasons and focusing on what he’s currently bringing to the table? Or is it time for them to move on, no matter what he does over the last 20 games?