Opening Day wasn't a celebration for Brian Roberts, who heads back to the DL

Oft-injured second baseman sidelined for at least two weeks with a right hamstring injury

April 05, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

When they introduced him at Camden Yards on Friday, Brian Roberts walked out like a 70-year-old man to slap hands with his teammates during the Opening Day festivities.

One by one, the rest of the Orioles' starters jogged in from center field on a bright orange carpet to a rousing ovation from the capacity crowd.

Roberts watched it all with a wistful look on his face.

"I had to kind of nudge him to go out for the introductions," Buck Showalter said after the Orioles' 9-5 win over the Minnesota Twins. "I think he wanted to be part of it, but ..."

But Roberts was bummed, too. Another season, another injury, another trip to the disabled list.

When does it end for this guy?

So when the introductions were over, so was Roberts' day in the bright sunshine. Moments later, he limped back to the dugout and out of the Orioles' plans for a while.

Still, the news was not horrible for the seemingly snake-bitten second baseman.

An MRI showed he has a ruptured tendon in the back of his right knee, and he's expected to be out three to four weeks.

Roberts doesn't need an operation, as originally feared. And he doesn't get some horrible prognosis that buries another season for good.

After all he's been through the past three years, that almost qualified as an excuse to break out the champagne and party hats.

Still, for the Orioles, that was a sickening sight Thursday, Roberts diving head-first into second base on a stolen base in the ninth inning of their 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, then immediately grabbing his right leg in pain.

When he couldn't put any weight on it, when they carried him off the field, the Orioles had to be thinking the worst.

It was a shame, too, because Roberts had looked good in spring training and was off to a strong start at the plate this season, 5-for-12 in the first three games.

"Even if I had been 0-for-15 it wouldn't have been any easier I don't think," he said. "But when you get off to a good start and you feel really good for the first time in a long time, it probably did make it even more difficult.

"The excitement of the team and what we feel like we are going to accomplish in here — I'm just wanting so badly to be a part of that and to be able to contribute, so yeah, it's hard."

By Friday, the shock of losing their second baseman had begun to dissipate for the Orioles. And they were left to try and put the best face on another disappointing setback for the gritty veteran who has already been through so much.

"It's tough for him," Showalter said after the game. "You can imagine what's going through his head. He has his wife here and we'll get through it. There are tougher things going on in this world than this.

"I think everybody kind of feels for him. We know how hard he worked to get to this point. But if I know Brian, he'll overcome it and be a contributor for us before too long."

All morning Friday, I heard the knuckleheads on talk radio saying: "What's wrong with Roberts? Why is he still sliding head-first after all his injuries?"

The answer was simple. Because that's the way he plays. He plays hard. He plays with his face in the dirt. All-out, all-the-time, that's Roberts.

After playing in just 115 games the past three years because of concussions and a hip injury, he wanted to come back at full-go this season.

That meant diving for ground balls and diving head-first on steals and pushing himself to get back to where he was as a two-time All-Star and one of the best second basemen in the game.

But he's 35 now, in the last year of a four-year $40-million contract. And you wonder how much longer he wants to go through something like this, his body breaking down again, looking at all the pain and rehabilitation that lies before him.

So now the Orioles move on with Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla at second base, which is not the worst thing in the world, not with Chris Davis crushing the ball like Roy Hobbs in "The Natural" and the O's winners of three of their first four games.

And Roberts goes back to doing something he knows all too well: rehabbing another injury in that lonely alternate universe where, yes, you're still part of the team, but it doesn't always feel that way.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.