After dealing with concussion symptoms, undergoing surgery in August to repair a torn labrum in his hip and Dec. 20 sports hernia surgery, Brian Roberts is not surprised at all that some fans doubt he can return to play regularly for the Orioles. And he's completely OK with and understanding of that.
"I don't hold anything against anyone that doesn't think I can do it anymore. That's fine," Roberts said Saturday at FanFest. "I had people 12 years ago that thought that, so it's not anything new. I'm excited just to play. I never played for what people thought. I play because I love the game. I play because I still feel I can help this organization. I still think I can help win games. I guess only time will tell if that's true or not.
"I'm really looking forward to being on the field the first day (of spring training) and doing what everyone else is doing. Being a normal guy again. It's been a long journey to get to this point and I'm trying to enjoy it and not take it for granted."
Roberts said the mental aspect of dealing with all of his physical issues has been a huge challenge and he was pretty down a few weeks ago when he first heard he would need the sports hernia surgery.
"That was a pretty rough night when I found out that day," he said. "I was sitting in a hotel room with my wife in Philadelphia wondering, 'Can I go through this again?' I wasn't sure mentally if I had it in me for a couple hours there. But it helped talking to guys that had it done. It being just a four-week (recovery from) surgery, I said, 'I can do this.' "
Roberts said he is not now limited or restricted in any way.
"No, not really. I've been running and I'll start hitting off a coach and taking ground balls Monday (today in Sarasota). I'm doing as much, if not more, than I normally do in January in my entire career," he said.
So after playing in just 115 games the last three seasons and just 17 last year, can he return to the form he last showed during his last full season of 2009? Then he hit .283 with 56 doubles, 16 homers, 79 RBIs and a .807 OPS.
"I'm very hopeful," Roberts said. "I don't see any reason at this point why I can't. I'm 35, but my body is really 32 because I haven't played a whole lot the last couple of years. I've been remade. I'm excited and I feel like I still have a lot to give."
A reporter asked Roberts if he's talked to manager Buck Showalter about this season and does he feel he needs to compete to win his old job back.
"I haven't talked to him about it," Roberts said. "I'm going to take ground balls and my batting practice and when my name is in the lineup, I'll go play. When we open in Tampa, I'll do whatever it says I'm supposed to do."
Roberts said that includes possibly batting somewhere other than first in the batting order. If asked to hit second or anywhere else, he's up for it.
"You think after all I've been though, I care where I hit? Honestly. After a year of migraine headaches I could care less where I hit in the lineup, I can promise you that," Roberts said, adding that his concussion issues seem to be a thing of the past.
"I'm doing great with it. It's been a process and journey and something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. But it's something I've glad to have in the rearview mirror."
Roberts was asked about the impressive fan turnout of 18,500 Saturday at the Baltimore Convention Center.
"They always said we had lost our fans a long time ago," said Roberts. "I said, 'No, they aren't spending their hard-earned money to come watch us lose. It's understandable.' You always knew this was a sports town and this was an Orioles town. That playoff atmosphere blew my wildest expectations out of the water for what this city is like when our team wins."