Roberts goes from first to third -- in order

Roberts goes from first to third -- in order

BALTIMORE -- That wasn't a baseball mirage. The Orioles batted Brian Roberts out of the leadoff slot for the first time in five seasons Friday night and expect to do so for the foreseeable future. Roberts settled into the third spot of the lineup, where he'll provide an on-base presence and a speed threat in front of cleanup hitter Nick Markakis.

It's an unorthodox pairing to say the least, but Baltimore manager Dave Trembley suggested that it's the best way for him to arrange the players at his disposal. Roberts said he hadn't batted third since college, but Trembley said that his mix of skills will make Markakis better and give the Orioles some more punch in their lineup.

"My thought process is that my No. 3 hitter, Adam Jones, is out for an extended period of time," said Trembley. "And as soon as he [got hurt], that night I went in and I sat in that clubhouse for a while after and said, 'Well, what can I do to put the best lineup out there? What can I do to see how we can help the team?'"

Trembley and the whole country will get to see Saturday, when the Orioles and Rangers will be televised on Fox in a game called by Josh Lewin and Mark Grace. The Orioles will be wearing throwback uniforms to honor the Baltimore Elite Giants, a Negro League team that won the championship in both 1939 and '49.

Roberts, who has played 979 of his 1,060 games out of the leadoff slot, said he won't change his game to fit in his new batting slot. The switch-hitter said he'll still be the same player, a pesky hitter who works the count, sprays doubles all over the yard and runs the bases daringly. And just for effect, he got a dig in at Markakis. When Roberts was asked if he'd run differently in front of Markakis, he pointed out that his teammate isn't a true power threat.

"Nick doesn't even hit for power. Why would I change?" he joked to the media, with Markakis sitting just three feet away. "He's hit behind me a lot of times. He hit second for a lot of times. I don't think there's any reason to [change]. If [Albert] Pujols was behind me, maybe. Nick's a great hitter, but he doesn't have 45 homers."

Trembley, for his part, said the lineup would work because it will bunch his team's two best hitters together.

"I just think if you put a guy that's a veteran hitting third and you've got another veteran guy hitting fourth, it might help us take some of the burden off some of these [younger] guys," he said. "I've asked an awful lot of [Nolan] Reimold. I've moved him from third to fifth, from fifth to third to second. There's some things I want to see out of him. We'll see how it goes. I'm kind of excited about it, to be honest with you. I'm kind of excited to see what can happen here."

Moments later, Trembley ticked off the many variables that may confront an opposing pitcher.

"If they want to take the hole away from Nick, Roberts will steal," he said. "If they want to throw breaking balls to Markakis, Roberts will steal. If they want to throw fastballs to Markakis, Markakis will whack it."

Pitching matchup
BAL: LHP Brian Matusz (3-2, 5.28 ERA)
Matusz put together the best start of his brief Major League career in his previous outing, on Sunday against the Indians, allowing four hits and striking out eight in seven dominating innings. While Matusz will want to build on that success, Trembley doesn't want to overtax his young pitchers, many of whom are nearing or have exceeded their career highs for innings pitched between multiple levels of the organization.

TEX: RHP Kevin Millwood (10-8, 3.61 ERA)
Millwood is 2-3 with a 5.63 ERA in his past 10 starts. He is 3-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 13 starts on the road this season. Left-handed hitters are batting .222 off him as opposed to .286 by right-handed hitters. They are hitting .220 off him with runners in scoring position, including .143 with two outs. This will be his first start against the Orioles this year, but he is 9-2 with a 3.48 ERA against them in his career.

Bird bites
The Orioles dropped to a season-worst 27 games under .500 on Friday night. ... Eighteen of the O's past 32 losses have been by one or two runs. Baltimore has played in 61 games decided by two runs or less this season and is 25-36 in those circumstances. ... Felix Pie went 0-for-3 in the leadoff slot Friday night, snapping his career-best seven-game hitting streak. ...The Orioles are 37-31 when they score first and 17-50 when their opponent draws first blood. ... Baltimore is 48-32 when it scores four runs or more and just 6-49 when it scores fewer than four. ...Roberts drove in Baltimore's only run Friday and was hit by a pitch in his first career game as a No. 3 hitter. ...The Orioles are 3-5 against the Rangers this season.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FOX

On radio
• 105.7 The Fan

Up next
• Sunday: Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 9-13, 5.18) vs. Rangers (Derek Holland, 7-9, 5.63), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Orioles (David Hernandez, 4-6, 4.54) at Red Sox (Clay Buchholz, 4-3, 4.40), 7:10 p.m. ET

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