Roberts prepared to bat ninth on opening day

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts met with manager Buck Showalter before last night’s game and learned that he’s going to bat ninth on opening day against the Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price.

The first hint came when Roberts hit ninth last night against Price.

Showalter didn’t post the lineup until he clued in Roberts, who has batted leadoff in 1,120 games and ninth in 17 during his major league career.

If Roberts is bothered by the news, he didn’t show it this morning while breaking out a series of one-liners, much to the amusement of reporters who surrounded him at his locker.

Reminded that he stated earlier this spring that he didn’t care where he hit as long as it wasn’t 10th, Roberts said, “That’s totally changed. I’m not going to play now.”

There’s one quip.

What was the conversation like with Showalter?

“It was heated.”

There’s two.

Will his approach change?

“I’ll probably try to hit more homers.”

And there’s three.

“It was fine. We talked about kind of where we’re headed with things and what his reasons were. That was kind of it,” Roberts said.

“I am who I am. It really doesn’t matter where I hit. I’m going to do the same things I’ve always done and all that changes is that you don’t hit for an hour.

“It’s a batting order. I’m happy to be healthy and playing. My job for the past 13 years has been to be the best leadoff man in the game that I could be, and now I’ll be the best ninth-hole hitter that I can be.”

Roberts, who hasn’t batted ninth since 2004, doesn’t know whether the move will be permanent.

“I have no idea,” he said. “Does anybody know what’s going to happen after opening day? I’m just hoping to go play a bunch of games and where my name is, that’s where I’ll play.

“I really hadn’t thought about it, to tell you the truth. That’s kind of the least of my concerns these days. It’s part of the game, it’s part of the natural progression. When you start to get older, your goals change. I’m just glad enough to know that my role is still somewhere on the field.”

Roberts has played in only 115 games the past three seasons because of a herniated disc in his back, concussion symptoms and a torn labrum in his hip. He was limited to 17 games last year and didn’t make the opening day roster.

Now, he’s a week away from jogging down the orange carpet at Camden Yards.

“Exciting for sure,” he said. “It’s been a long couple of years and I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to go back out there and do it one more time, at least. I’ll try to soak it all in and enjoy this process. You never know what the future has in store, so it’s a great opportunity to go into the last year of your contract in what could be the last year in a place you spent so long with the opportunity to do something really cool as a team and be a part of it.”

Roberts told me back in November that he has no plans to retire after 2013, as long as he’s healthy.

Would he play anywhere besides Baltimore?

“If Baltimore doesn’t want me and somebody else does, I mean, I’m not going to sit at home,” he said this morning, another smile creasing his face as he munched on dry cereal. “That’s kind of really the only way you can answer that, but I don’t look that far in advance. I don’t have any idea what the future holds. Right now, I’m concentrating on what I have to do today and tomorrow and trying to get us to a World Series and win a World Series and go from there.”

The first step comes on April 2, with Roberts hitting ninth against Price and uncertain how long he’ll stay at the bottom of the lineup.

“We talked about moving forward for right now,” he said. “It could be 162 games for all I know. That’s how we’re going to begin it and lets go from there.”

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