SARASOTA, Fla. – His full beard now speckled with gray, Brian Roberts had a big smile on Friday afternoon.
A year ago, Roberts was worried about whether he could take batting practice with music playing in the stadium. He’s no longer afraid of overstimulation. He just wants his second base job back.
"Feels nice to be one of the guys and start off on a good note for the first time in a couple of years. It's good," Roberts said.
Ever since his four-year, $40 million extension took effect, Roberts has had a series of injuries: back, two concussions and a hip that limited him to 115 games in the first three years of the deal. This year, it’s something different—and good.
"Drama-free is always good. We'll try to keep it that way the best we can. I'm just kind of going out there and try to have fun and try to bring something positive to what's going on here and hopefully be a good addition," Roberts said.
Roberts hopes to be the second baseman, and that’s what Buck Showalter hopes.
“Coming into this spring, I was planning on Robby being able of doing what he’s capable of doing. If he’s healthy, I expect him to do that for us. He’d be the first to tell you, some of those challenges he’s had, I don’t think he’s planning on anything but being healthy and being our second baseman. I respect that. I know that’s how he came in here. He wants to get us a reminder of how good a player he is and what a contributor he is for us,” Showalter said.
Roberts and his wife Diana are expecting their first child.
“There are a lot of arrows pointing up for him,” Showalter said.
“He’s had a great off-season, done things that he hasn’t done in a long time—even in the off-season because he hasn’t had to. He’s said to me that he hasn’t been physically or really mostly mentally where he is right now in a long time.”
Roberts has come to Showalter and asked him to play him early and often.
“"I just need to play. That's going to be the biggest thing, to just get out there. I'm excited to have a full spring. I told Buck, 'I want to play, I want to play a lot.' He said, 'I'm not going to kill you,' but I said, 'I want to play.' I want to get game action. That's the only way to get where you want to be physically and mentally and emotionally, to get out there and play and have some success and feel confident in your body and everything else that's going on. I think that's the biggest thing I'm going to continue to work on at this point, to just play games," Roberts said.
Roberts was taking batting practice with a group of players he’s been with before: Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold.
“I don't mean any disrespect to anyone, but I still feel like I'm our best option. I still feel like I can provide a lot to this team. I still feel like the guys in this room want me out there and know I can provide something. That's the way I approach it. I approach it every day that I'm going to be the second baseman until they tell me something else," Roberts said.