Gibbons, Roberts Could Get a Reprieve

A trade of second baseman Brian Roberts looks unlikely before the season opener on Monday.
A trade of second baseman Brian Roberts looks unlikely before the season opener on Monday. (By Rob Carr -- Associated Press)
By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 27, 2008

JUPITER, Fla., March 26 -- For most of spring training, there seemed to be two givens for the Baltimore Orioles -- second baseman Brian Roberts would be traded before the start of the regular season, and outfielder Jay Gibbons would serve a 15-day suspension for violating baseball's drug policy.

But on Wednesday, Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail said that a Roberts trade looks unlikely before the season opener. Meanwhile, Gibbons could be spared his suspension pending ongoing talks between the Orioles' front office and the players' union.

As a result, fans at Camden Yards on Opening Day on Monday may see both Gibbons and Roberts in uniform, an idea that seemed ludicrous just days ago.

"I think with each passing hour at this point, it's less and less likely," MacPhail said of a deal for Roberts, regarded as the most valuable trade commodity on the roster.

The Chicago Cubs had been seen as the most likely suitor for Roberts. While MacPhail refused to detail the state of negotiations, he said Wednesday that he has told Roberts that a deal looks less likely before the opener.

"The further we get this close into it, the greater likelihood that we're going to start with what we have," said MacPhail, who has already used the high-profile trades of ace pitcher Erik Bedard and shortstop Miguel Tejada to land young prospects, moves that he believes will jump-start the franchise's rebuilding efforts.

As for the possibility that Roberts could be traded after Opening Day, MacPhail said, "You don't know for certain."

Roberts, who is nursing a sore lower back, was unavailable to comment on Wednesday. He was not scheduled to make the trip to Jupiter, Fla., on Wednesday to face the St. Louis Cardinals. Manager Dave Trembley said he is expected back in the lineup by Friday for the final Grapefruit League game against the New York Mets.

Meanwhile, MacPhail said the Orioles have spent the last two weeks inquiring about Gibbons's suspension, which came last December after a report on Sports Illustrated's Web site linked the outfielder to the purchase of human growth hormone. Gibbons later admitted using HGH.

But the Associated Press, citing anonymous sources on Monday, said that the 15-day suspension given to Gibbons and the Kansas City Royals' Jos¿ Guill¿n might be lifted as part of a possible amnesty agreement being discussed as owners and the union negotiate changes to baseball's drug policy.

"I know absolutely nothing," Gibbons said. "I know I'm suspended 15 days to start the season."

The uncertainty may affect the team's final roster decisions, including a choice between utility player Scott Moore and outfielder Tike Redman. Both are in contention to fill in for Gibbons. Team officials hope to decide after Thursday's exhibition game against the Nationals.

Moore has overcome a lower abdominal injury to log one of the best spring training performances among the Orioles. While playing first, second, third and left field, Moore has hit .394 in 14 games.

Redman played 40 games for the Orioles last season, though his chances of staying may be hurt by the Orioles' glut of left-handed-hitting outfielders. Redman has batted .289 in 21 spring training games.

But even if Trembley decides on a player this week, he may not be ensured a roster spot until Gibbons's status is known.

"It would be preferable to know," MacPhail said. "But unfortunately, having some experience in that area, it's not unexpected."

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