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Roberts named AL Player of the Week

Roberts awarded AL Player of the Week

BALTIMORE -- Capping what has been an amazing week for the Orioles and Brian Roberts, in particular, the second baseman was named American League Player of the Week on Monday.

Roberts is second in the AL in home runs, first in hits, total bases, batting average and triples. He also made an appearance Monday morning on ESPN's "Cold Pizza" and has been a fantasy player's dream.

Roberts earned the award for the first time and it was well deserved. In six games last week, Roberts hit .500 (12-for-24) with two homers, eight RBIs, two triples and a stunning .600 on-base percentage. He also has hit safely in all 12 games this season, including a dramatic three-run homer off the Yankees' Tom Gordon as the Orioles rallied to win, 7-6, on Saturday.

"Honors are great," he said. "It might be a cliche, but the way we've played as a team is the most exciting thing for me. This weekend is the most fun I've had in the three years I've been here, the way the fans were and the way we played as a team. Personal honors are great, but we're looking for a lot more than that."

The Orioles are 8-4 and have won five of six games over the Yankees, matching their season win total against the Bombers last season. Roberts has been a big key to the team's success. His five homers tie his career-best total from 2003. He also has 14 RBIs in the first 12 games compared to 53 in 159 games last season.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said Roberts is more relaxed and focused, especially since the trade of Jerry Hairston Jr. to the Chicago Cubs. Hairston and Roberts competed for the second base job for the past four years.

"With the trade, I think a lot was taken off his shoulders," Mazzilli said. "We had two pretty good second basemen and not knowing who was going to play, I think that had a lot to with it. I'm very proud. It's no question that it's well deserved. If he could do it again, it would be even better."

Roberts said he's not sure why he's suddenly hitting for power and he's not trying to figure it out. Perhaps it's a byproduct of an arduous offseason conditioning program and gradual improvement.

And Roberts is not a bloop hitter. He broke Cal Ripken's club record for doubles in a season with 50 in 2004.

"Is it a fluke? I don't know," he said. "I felt like I've gotten better every year, I feel like I've improved, and I feel like I've put a lot of work in to get better. Last year, some of it translated into doubles and a little bit more power, and this year at this point it's turned into a little bit more."

Roberts was not the only Oriole considered for the award.

Miguel Tejada, who hit .375 with 13 RBIs, and Melvin Mora (.478 with an .826 slugging percentage) were also candidates. Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun (.467) and designated hitter Shea Hillenbrand (.414, 20 total bases), Texas' Hank Blalock (.379, two homers) and Michael Young (.300, nine RBIs) and the Yankees' Gary Sheffield (.500, two homers, eight RBIs) were hitting candidates.

Toronto right-hander Gustavo Chacin (2-0, 1.29 ERA) and Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (2-0, 0.69) were also on the ballot.

Roberts said he is grateful for his recent success.

"There are so many aspects of this game that are fun," he said. "And, at this point, I've been fortunate enough to experience all of them in some way, shape or form. I have no idea what the future holds but at this point, it's just kind of getting more comfortable, understanding the type of hitter that you are and getting better every year is really the biggest key."

Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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