B. Roberts now second to none


With Hairston in Chicago, he's unchallenged at 2nd

`nice to have that comfort'


February 23, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Jerry Hairston is gone, the Orioles having sent him to the Chicago Cubs in the Sammy Sosa deal, and second base belongs exclusively to Brian Roberts. No competition. Few worries.

This is Roberts' fifth spring training camp, but it's unlike the previous ones. A close friend has left, and so has the pressure of earning a job.

"We spent a lot of time around each other, and we're used to being around each other," said Roberts, who reported early. "But at this point, we're glad that he moved on. I know he's happy where he is, I'm happy where I am, and hopefully it will work out the best for both of us."

Roberts was the starter by default last spring after Hairston broke his right ring finger in the first inning of the first exhibition game. Roberts had a club-record 50 doubles, the most by a switch-hitter in American League history and ranked fourth in the AL with 29 stolen bases. His .988 fielding percentage was third among AL second basemen.

The opportunity might not have come if Hairston left South Florida in perfect health.

"We really didn't have the competition that I guess we were supposed to have," he said. "Through part of spring training last year, I knew I was going to at least play the first couple of weeks. But this year I know that, at this point, I'm going to play every day pretty much.

"I think, if anything, it drove me to work harder. When you've got somebody pushing you, you know you have to work hard. But now I also know I have expectations to live up to, and I feel like I had the best winter that I've had. I'm excited. It's nice to have that comfort."

Reed as teacher

With his 40th birthday coming on March 11 and having joined his seventh organization, reliever Steve Reed qualifies as a mentor to the collection of young pitchers in camp. He might as well carry out the duties.

"My job is to do what I came here to do and what I'm paid to do, and that's to pitch," he said. "But, as it goes along, I think the guys respect you for what you've done, and they'll ask for advice if they feel you're a guy who can offer them something to help their careers out. In the past few years, I've kind of been that guy, and if that's how it works out, that's fine. I don't have a problem telling anybody anything."

Reed figures the team needs only five or six innings from its starters before the bullpen covers the rest of the game.

"It looks like we'll score runs. I think we have a pretty good team," he said. "We've got a lot of good arms here from what I've seen. There are some guys who lack a little bit of pitching experience, but they have the arms. The only way to get experience is to get out there and do it. There are a lot of young guys on the staff, but they all seem to have somewhat of a clue of what's going on."

Around the horn

The Orioles claimed right-handed-hitting outfielder Matt Diaz, 26, off waivers from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He has five days to accept the claim or become a free agent. Diaz batted .190 in 10 September games. He was Triple-A Durham's Player of the Year after hitting .332 with 21 homers and 93 RBIs in 134 games. ... Sosa will report to camp today and be made available to the media after the workout.

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