A club source said it was “highly doubtful” Roberts, who played in just 39 games in 2011 because of the concussion, would be at the Jan. 21 event but it “is not completely out of the realm of possibility.”
“I hope he goes to the autograph session,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “I don’t really know any reason he can’t show up to sign autographs for 10-year-old kids. I am not aware of anything that would prohibit him from doing that.”
The news casts an even darker shadow over the future of the 34-year-old leadoff hitter and team sparkplug who missed the rest of the 2011 season after sliding headfirst into first base on May 16 in Boston. The slide aggravated the symptoms he first suffered in September 2010, when he hit himself in the helmet with his bat after a strikeout.
Roberts had said this offseason that he had finally taken strides toward getting back to baseball activities, but at the team holiday party, he again seemed vexed and frustrated by his situation. Now, spring training is weeks away.
Roberts’ health has been one of this offseason’s biggest questions and prompted the club to stockpile second base options, including Robert Andino, Matt Antonelli, Ryan Adams and Ryan Flaherty.
“We have made arrangements for other people to play second base other than Roberts if he isn’t ready,” Duquette said.
Despite his physical troubles, Roberts remains one of the club’s most popular players. One of Roberts' scheduled autograph sessions, which was with manager Buck Showalter and reliever Troy Patton, was among the first to sell out. Tickets for another autograph session with Roberts, Adams and pitcher Jason Berken were still available Wednesday evening.
The Orioles have made contingency plans for fans who purchased vouchers in hopes of obtaining Roberts’ autograph in case the second baseman is unable to attend the event. Those fans will be notified of the details should Roberts not be able to attend, a club spokesman said.
Roberts is not the only popular Oriole who will not be attending FanFest. According to the Orioles, top starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie will not be there because of a scheduled family vacation. Because of the conflict, he was not included in the autograph sessions.