Brian Roberts: “For a long time, I didn’t think this was going to happen”

For the first time since last May 16, Brian Roberts name is atop the Orioles’ lineup at second base for tonight’s game at Camden Yards against Pittsburgh. While Roberts has not been officially activated yet, he will if the game is played.

He’s waited a while for this day and noted he now could possibly have to wait yet another day.

“Praying the rain goes away,” he said during a Camden Yards press conference a few moments ago. “It’s been a year test of patience, so why not one more day. Just excited to be here. Certainly good to walk in the locker room and not just see the guys, but feel like you are one of them again. For a long time, I didn’t feel that way and today I do, finally.

“They’ve been playing so well, the last thing I want to do is come in and we lose eight in a row. But hopefully I can come in and add something to the team and almost blend back in so no one notices I’m here.

“But I’m just so thankful for the opportunity to run back out there one more time. For a long time, I didn’t think that that was going to actually happen. God has been good through it all and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

Roberts said he didn’t have any concerns about anything he might have to do once he gets back on a major league diamond.

“I don’t have any apprehension about anything I have to do on the field,” he said. “Just probably more than anything I know it will be a little different than down there (the minors), in a good way. There should be more excitement and more energy.

“I think getting on the ground was probably the biggest hurdle. I had some apprehension about getting on the ground and diving and sliding, doing the things you have to do instinctively. I think my first couple dives were not all that instinctive, but by the end, the last couple I didn’t think about.”

Over 14 rehab games, Roberts batted .238 with five doubles, a homer and four RBIs. He went 10-for-42 at bat with a .340 OBP and .769 OPS.

“I feel good (at bat),” he said. “I know that it will be a little different up here. Going back down, you realize the best of the best are here. There will be things I’ll have to get used to again. But in general, I felt like I saw the ball pretty well, had good at-bats and squared it up a decent majority of the time.”

brian-roberts-staring-dugout-sidebar.jpgRoberts said he wasn’t sure how regularly he would play in his first few weeks back with the team.

“We haven’t talk about it much,” Roberts said. “The most I played down there was three days in a row, but I didn’t have any problems with that and I did a night-night-day, we tried to mix in night and day games. I doubt he’ll run me out there for 40 straight, even though I’d love to. If I have my choice, I’d say yeah, I’m ready to go.”

Roberts did not attempt to steal any bases during his rehab stint with Delmarva, Bowie and Norfok.

“The first week, I wasn’t looking to steal bases,” he said. “Probably the last week at Triple-A I had the inclination to think about starting to steal bases. Seems when I got on I didn’t have the opportunities. I’m not overly concerned about it. I think I’ll be able to jump back in and do that fine.

“I didn’t slide headfirst into bases, but I had multiple dives headfirst for defensive plays. I think the headfirst dive will come when it’s right on the bases, but I will also say I might consider sliding more feet first than I used to.”

Roberts’ return, at least in tonight’s lineup, sends Robert Andino to a reserve role. Roberts said he has talk briefly to Andino about his coming back to the Orioles.

“He’s such a great teammate, he kept saying, ‘All I want to do is watch you play.’ He says, ‘You’re my favorite player and I love watching you play,’ ” Roberts said. “That makes things a lot easier. I’ve been in the position where I was trying to get my career going in an everyday direction. The last thing I want to do is take that opportunity away from somebody.

“But at the same time, we all know we are tying to win games and both of us want to do whatever that takes. If two weeks from now, that means Andino is playing second, I will cheer him on and I’m sure he’ll do the same thing tonight. He is someone that will contribute to our team in a lot of ways.”

Roberts said he was appreciative of all the support he has gotten during his rehab process.

“Everybody has been great. Our organization has worked really well with my doctor in Pittsburgh. The fans? I get a lot of great messages. In general, people have been great,” he said.

“I’d say there were months at a time where I thought this would never occur. My doctor and I went to lunch today and he said he never had doubts, but there were times during the process that the future looked so bleak that we weren’t real sure.”

Roberts was asked if he felt he was back playing at a high skill level during his rehab games or whether that will take more time.

“At first things were slow, the game was fast,” he said. “The first week was a progression, but after that I felt like it came back pretty well. I felt like my defense was good and I swung the bat pretty well. I think in general, I was actually surprised at how fast it did come back. I don’t know what it will be like when I step out there tonight, I can’t make any promises, but down there I felt pretty good.”

No doubt the concussion symptoms impacted Roberts’ life well beyond baseball and he reflected on that during his press conference.

“I haven’t started a family yet,” he said. “I have a wife that I want to love and support the rest of my life and all those things take physical abilities to do and there were times and hours upon hours when I could not provide those things. That was of greater concern for a big portion of this, even beyond baseball. Not that baseball isn’t important, but I would hope that people would understand that that was number one.”

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