Roberts in nine-hole for O's likely the norm

Roberts in nine-hole for O's likely the norm

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts met with manager Buck Showalter prior to Thursday night's game to discuss batting ninth against Rays ace David Price in their Grapefruit League matchup. The assignment, which will happen on Opening Day, could very well be a familiar sight this season.

"We talked about moving forward for right now," said Roberts. "It could be 162 games for all I know. That's how we're going to begin it, and let's go from there."

"It's the right thing right now, we feel like," Showalter said. "I think as the season goes on, he'll move up. This is the best way for us to start right now and let him get his feet on the ground. The guy's really been out of action for a couple of seasons, and I think this will take a little focus off. I just want to create the best situation for him to get started, and we'll see where it takes us."

Roberts hasn't batted ninth in a Major League game since July 31, 2004, and he has hit atop the order in 1,115 out of 1,200 career starts. While Showalter hasn't made anything official, Nick Markakis is the most likely candidate to bat leadoff for the Orioles with Nate McLouth another option. If Roberts did have a problem with the move, he didn't show it Friday afternoon, joking with reporters that it was a "heated exchange" and he's now going to try to hit more home runs.

"It's a batter order," Roberts said. "I'm happy to be healthy and playing, and my job for the past 13 years had been to be the best leadoff man in the game I could be. And now I'll be the best nine-hole hitter I can be."

"I am who I am. It really doesn't matter where I hit. I'm going to do the same things I've always done, and all that changes is that you don't hit for an hour."

Showalter said Roberts didn't try to talk him out of it and thinks having the veteran as a second leadoff hitter of sorts gives the Orioles a well-balanced lineup.

"I think Robby, he sees what went on last year with the needs we had, and you can hit him about anywhere in the order," he said. "When you look at lineups, especially in the American League East, you look at how you stack up with other teams seven, eight and nine. And the batting order means one time around for sure. He might lead off some innings. I think it's the best way for him to get off [to a good start]. We're all going to have enough challenges as it is without creating some that we don't have to.

"I want to take some of the pressure off him and let him get started at something he hasn't really done for a couple of seasons."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.