Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is carried off the field… (Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports )
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field cleared out and the Orioles packed up for their flight back home to Baltimore, second baseman Brian Roberts slowly limped to his locker, visibly downtrodden.
Roberts had just been carried off the field after injuring his right hamstring while stealing second base in the ninth inning of the Orioles’ 6-3 win Thursday over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Roberts, who was looking forward to playing in his first home opener since 2011, now appears to be out indefinitely. He will see team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens and have an MRI on Friday in Baltimore.
“Just the bottom part of the hamstring [is] where he felt it,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after the game. “It's early. ... [I’m] not going to say he's going to be able to play [Friday]. “We'll reassess it [Friday]and see where we are. He's in some discomfort.”
The 35-year-old Roberts, who entered this season having played just 115 games over the last three seasons because of various injuries, slid headfirst across the second base bag and came up holding his right leg in obvious pain. He was carried off the field by head trainer Richie Bancells and first-base coach Wayne Kirby.
Roberts said he’s never had trouble with his hamstring before and said he didn’t know whether the injury occurred on his final stride to the base or on his slide.
“I don't know,” Roberts said. “Somewhere in the last couple of steps, I felt something kind of pop in the back of my knee. I don't know what happened exactly. … We'll just wait and gather some information [Friday].”
Over the past three years Roberts battled concussion symptoms, and a torn hip labrum ended his 2012 season and required surgery. But he was optimistic that he has finally conquered his injury-riddled past.
As spring training progressed, Roberts became reaccustomed to the game, even with sliding headfirst into bases. He embraced a new role as the team’s No. 9 hitter and began the season 5-for-12.
“He’s been struggling for the past three years and he’s a great, great teammate,” said right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, Thursday’s winning pitcher. “[He] battles, plays hard and that’s what you want in a teammate. I feel bad about him … and I hope he comes back quickly. And I think he will. He said he’s hurting a little bit, but he will be back.”
After being forced from the game Thursday, Roberts was clearly disheartened.
“Not too great,” Roberts said. “I don't know. I don't have a whole lot of words for it right now. Frustrated, but we'll get the results and hopefully move forward.”
Arrieta eager for opener
Right-hander Jake Arrieta will start his third straight home opener when he faces the Minnesota Twins on Friday at Camden Yards. While Arrieta’s been through the experience before, he still expects to take in all the excitement of the day.
“Emotionally, it’s going to be very similar,” Arrieta said. “I’ve been asked by a lot of people, ‘How are you going to control your emotions or contain your emotions?’ and my response is that I’m not going to. I’m not even going to attempt to keep everything contained. I think that’s what makes this situation so special. You get to feel the euphoric feeling and the adrenaline rush that’s associated with a situation like this.”
Arrieta, who threw seven shutout innings and earned the win in last season’s regular-season opener against the Twins, said he’s excited to get back to Baltimore to experience the atmosphere.
“It’s almost like a bottled-up excitement ready to explode,” Arrieta said. “That’s the state Baltimore is in right now and we all feel that. Even though ... we haven’t been there in some time, for me, the playoff series against the Yankees felt like yesterday. I think that’s part of the emotion that will arise when I get to the ballpark on Friday.”
Betemit has successful surgery
Orioles designated hitter Wilson Betemit underwent exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Tuesday, but the procedure isn’t expected to extend Betemit’s initial recovery time of six to eight weeks from a Grade 2/3 posterior cruciate ligament tear in the knee.
“They went in just to look and repair a couple of minor things, so everything in there was good news, Showalter said. “The anterior cruciate ligament is really good and the PCL looks like it’s going to heal.”
Betemit injured his right knee while running the bases during a Grapefruit League game on March 25, falling to the ground in pain between first and second base. At the time, Showalter feared the injury might be worse.