Roberts not concerned about slow start

Roberts not concerned about slow start

ST. PETERSBURG -- Second baseman Brian Roberts was in Thursday's lineup against the Rays and is also expected to start Friday's home opener at Camden Yards.

Manager Dave Trembley gave Roberts the option of not playing on Tropicana Field's artificial turf for the third consecutive game, but Roberts said that he felt fine physically and wanted to play.

Roberts was slowed this spring by a herniated disc in his lower back and went 0-for-10 in the Orioles' first two games.

After grounding out in the first inning, Roberts snapped his hitless streak with an infield single to shortstop in the fifth inning. He then proceeded to steal his first base of the season, but it didn't come easily, as he dove headfirst into second base and struck the knee of Rays infielder Ben Zobrist, and the ball hit the back of his head.

"He just hasn't found his swing yet," manager Dave Trembley said. "He's battling at the plate. He's real key for us. We're glad he was able to stay in the game [on Thursday]."

Roberts, who walked in his second at-bat and doubled in the ninth, raised his average to .143 through the Orioles' first three games.

"I'm not overly concerned," Roberts said. "If this was June, I might be, but [I'm] not too worried about it. The first day, the first couple of at-bats [on Tuesday], I didn't feel terrific, but a couple of at-bats in, I started feeling better and better. It hasn't turned into hits yet, but ... it's always magnified if it's Opening Day."

Roberts had several good at-bats in Wednesday's 4-3 loss, including a 10-pitch at-bat against right-hander Matt Garza. Because Roberts had only 19 plate appearances this spring, Trembley said, the team knew it might take a little while for its leadoff man to get going.

"The hits haven't fallen in for him," Trembley said. "I'm sure he's not where he wants to be, simply because he didn't have that many at-bats in Spring Training, but I've said it before, he makes our team better. He's a premier leadoff guy.

"Roberts makes our offense go, and if Roberts were to get on those first two games, we might have scored some more runs, because he makes it a little bit better for all the guys hitting behind him. It hasn't happened yet, but [Thursday] would be a good time to get it started."

"I've hit a couple of balls hard, I just haven't gotten anything out of it," Roberts said of the first two games of the season. "That's just the nature of baseball."

The most important thing is that physically, Roberts is fine. He said his back feels all right and that there's no question he will trot out onto the field at Camden Yards to greet the Orioles faithful.

"I think it's important for him and for the rest of the team, what he means to Baltimore, to be able to be that leadoff guy [for Friday's opener]," Trembley said.

"He's coming along. He said he's seeing the ball good."

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