O's Roberts expects to be ready for opener

Second baseman says left arm is better

`there haven't been any major setbacks'


It was three months ago today that Brian Roberts was forced to consider the possibility that his burgeoning career could be over. That reality hit him as he lay in a heap near the first base bag at Yankee Stadium, clutching his dangling left arm after a gruesome collision with New York's Bubba Crosby.

Roberts underwent ligament reconstruction surgery 10 days after the collision, which resulted in a dislocated elbow, a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament and his pronator flexor tendon tearing off the bone. Roberts missed the Orioles' final 12 games last year, but the initial fear was that the injury would force the All-Star second baseman out of the beginning of the 2006 season, too.

Yesterday, Roberts quieted those fears, saying his left arm feels better every day and he expects to be ready for Opening Day 2006.

"You can never predict two months from now, but we're on schedule and there haven't been any major setbacks," said Roberts, who had the surgery on Sept. 30. "I saw my doctor, and he didn't see any reason that I wouldn't be ready to go. I won't be going 100 percent the first day of spring training, but if I am ready to be playing by the middle of spring training, I think that's plenty of time to get ready."

Asked if he'd be at second base when the Orioles open the season the first week of April, Roberts said, "We don't see any reason at this point why I wouldn't be."

Roberts was at the ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor yesterday, along with teammates Jay Gibbons and Bruce Chen and former Orioles Elrod Hendricks, Scott McGregor and Dave Johnson, to help the organization spread holiday cheer to 100 children from Harriet Tubman and City Springs elementary schools.

For Roberts, it was a respite from his rehabilitation schedule, which he has performed tirelessly in Arizona.

"We're getting into some strength work, still working some mobility and some range of motion," Roberts said. "We try to make progress every day. ... It's been harder than I thought. I just don't think you can ever really understand or comprehend what you are going to go through until you go through it."

Roberts has gotten plenty of support. Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo calls him on a weekly basis, and team owner Peter G. Angelos has also called him a couple of times.

"That was shocking to me," Roberts said. "For Mr. Angelos to call, it was something that was very appreciated. It just shows that he does care about us as individuals as well as employees."

Gibbons, one of Roberts' workout partners and closest friends, has tried to keep Roberts' spirits up, as well. He reminds him of his breakout season, in which Roberts made his first All-Star Game appearance, hitting .314 with 18 home runs and 73 RBIs, and that the timing of the injury could have been much worse.

Roberts said the injury has limited his upper body workouts this offseason, but other than that, it hasn't kept him from doing other things, including keeping his right (throwing) arm loose. Traditionally, Roberts doesn't start working on his hitting until after the first of the year, anyway. That will likely be delayed this year.

Meanwhile, April 3, the date of the Orioles' season opener, provides Roberts with all the motivation he needs.

"I just don't want to have to sit there and have to watch my team on TV that first day," Roberts said." That's enough motivation for me."


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