Roberts grateful year after injury

On anniversary, he's just happy to be playing, if not 100 percent


September 21, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. -- When Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts took the field yesterday, what happened exactly one year earlier was nowhere near his mind. In fact, Roberts said before the game that he didn't even remember it was on Sept. 20 that he was hurt.

A serious elbow injury suffered while colliding with the New York Yankees' Bubba Crosby at first base last season cast his career in doubt.

"I can remember being on the back field in the middle of spring training, taking batting practice and my arm hurt so bad," Roberts said. "I just sat on the field with [hitting coach Terry Crowley], and I said, `I just don't know that I can do it.' To actually have [over 500 at-bats] and to be able to contribute ... I feel fortunate and blessed."

Roberts has had a solid statistical season - .290 batting average, nine home runs, 52 RBIs and 35 steals - though his numbers are far more impressive when you consider that before spring training, he had to learn how to catch a baseball again with his surgically reconstructed left arm.

The switch-hitter acknowledges the injury has affected his hitting from the right side (he's .242 right-handed, compared with .312 left-handed), and his inability to do his normal offseason workout routine has contributed to his homer total being down from last year.

"It's just been a grind every day because you have weeks where it feels good and you have your weeks where it doesn't feel very good," Roberts said. "[Head trainer Richie Bancells] said, `When you come to spring training next year, it will feel like a new arm compared to what it felt like when you came to spring training this year.' That's something to look forward to."

Change for the better

Erik Bedard cited an improved changeup earlier this season as one of the reasons for his breakthrough campaign. Now, Adam Loewen has become the latest Orioles starter to trumpet the pitch.

"Since I've been here, that's gone from my fourth-best pitch to my second-best pitch, especially lately with my fastball command [being off]," Loewen said. "Whenever I get into a tough situation, I throw it."

Around the horn

LaTroy Hawkins, who pitched Tuesday for the first time since Sept. 2, was unavailable yesterday because of persistent soreness in his strained right groin. ... With his first-inning single, Chris Gomez extended his hitting streak to 13 games. ... Miguel Tejada was 1-for-3, extending his homerless stretch to 113 at-bats, a career high.

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