Roberts Will Play First Spring Game

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 20 -- Only a few days before putting on a uniform for the first time this year, Brian Roberts said what might be the most encouraging words of the Baltimore Orioles' 2006 season.

"I think, without a setback, I don't see why I won't be ready for Opening Day," Roberts said this past weekend.

Though the hopes for a playoff appearance for the Orioles are minimal, they are nonexistent without a healthy Roberts. It has been six months since Roberts tore ligaments and tendons in his left elbow in a gruesome collision with New York outfielder Bubba Crosby at Yankee Stadium.

Only now is Roberts able to play in his first game since the injury. He will suit up and bat leadoff in an exhibition game against the New York Mets on Tuesday.

"To tell you the truth, honestly, I still, for me, wake up and just wonder," Roberts said. "I haven't really put that much thought into Tuesday yet."

Roberts, who last season batted .314 with 18 home runs, said his rehabilitation has gone remarkably well and has progressed better than he expected.

"I am very pleased with where I am right now," Roberts said. "I didn't have negative expectations, but when I came here, I knew I was going to have to progress pretty quickly for me to make it. I have been very blessed that has happened. Our training staff and our coaches have been great. We've tried to be as smart as we could and I think we've done exactly what we needed to do to get me at this point."

Physically, Roberts should have no problem readjusting, Manager Sam Perlozzo said.

"I really don't have concerns," Roberts said. "I think there are things I have to get over and do for the first time -- steal second and slide headfirst, dive for a ball in the hole, or swing and miss at a change-up and make sure my arm doesn't snap off. Those sorts of things.

"Every time you do something for the first time, you have to break down the mental barriers as well as the physical ones."

Cubs Eager for Matos

The Orioles remain in contact with the Chicago Cubs, who are pushing for a swap of outfielder Luis Matos for Chicago infielder Todd Walker, according to a baseball source. The source said the Cubs are more eager for such a trade, but the Orioles haven't dismissed it. If they agree to the deal, the Orioles likely will use Walker, who batted .305 with 12 home runs last season, as a designated hitter. . . .

One team source said he expects a resolution to Melvin Mora's contract status this week. Either the team will sign him to an extension, or talks will end. Mora, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, is believed to be seeking an extension that will pay him $10 million per year.

Beltways Battle All of the proceeds from the April 1 exhibition game between the Orioles and Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards will be donated to emergency feeding programs in Baltimore. Up Next vs. Mets in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 1:05

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