He’s back in camp with a new lease on baseball life after three years of injuries and frustration, and he said Friday that he and his wife Diana are expecting their first child during the upcoming season.
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Roberts missed time in 2010 with a back problem and a late-season concussion. He missed most of 2011 after a second concussion and suffered a torn labrum in his hip after coming back for just 17 games last year. Most recently, he underwent hernia surgery in December, but he appears healthy and ready to return to the starting lineup at second base.
Manager Buck Showalter said Friday that the position will belong to Roberts if he can get through this elongated training camp without any further health issues. Roberts said he welcomes the challenge of playing a lot during the exhibition season, which has been extended to compensate for the time some players will be away from their teams for the World Baseball Classic.
“It feels nice to be one of the guys,’’ he said, “and to start off on a good note for the first time in a couple years. ... Drama-free is always good, so let’s try to keep it that way the best we can. I’m going to go out there and try to have fun and try to bring something positive to what’s going on here and hopefully be a good addition.”
Roberts — who’s in the last year of a four-year, $40 million contract — said he’s done more baseball-related preparation for this spring than any previous season and seems optimistic that his physical issues are behind him.
“Even though I haven’t played a lot, I feel like I’m in a really good spot baseball-wise,” he said, “especially considering what’s transpired over the last couple years.”
Teagarden getting fresh start, too
Reserve catcher Taylor Teagarden said he’s excited for the opportunity to get a fresh start out of spring training after suffering a back injury during camp last year and missing half of the 2012 season.
He came back to deliver some big game-winning hits for the Orioles and established himself as a solid defensive backup to Matt Wieters, and he hopes to be there from the start this year.
“I was feeling great at this time last year, too,” he said. “It’s a long road, so I just want to play it smart. You learn something each year. You have to take it easier on yourself.
“I was trying to make up for everything I missed in the offseason. I had the two knee surgeries and I was trying to get into shape. It was just too much. You can only handle so much at a time.”
Teagarden joined the major league club in July and hit a game-winning two-run homer to win an 13-inning game against the Detroit Tigers in his first appearance as an Oriole. He only batted .158 in 57 at-bats for the season, but the Orioles were 10-5 in the games he started.
“Obviously, in the situation I was in last year, when Matty got a day off, I wanted us to win badly,’’ Teagarden said. “You just need to get the job done.”
Flaherty’s new situation
Utilityman Ryan Flaherty doesn’t have a Rule 5 roster spot locked up this year, but he said Friday that he didn’t take the club’s offseason pursuit of middle infielders personally.
“They’re going to try to improve every way possible just like an individual player tries to improve every way possible,’’ Flaherty said. “It’s going to happen. It’s part of the game.”
Obviously, Flaherty wants to stay at the major league level all year, but the club now has the option of moving him up and down the way it did with several other players during last year’s surprising playoff run. As a Rule 5 pick last year, Flaherty needed to stay on the big league roster or the Orioles risked losing him.
“You can only control so much,’’ said Flaherty, who batted .216 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 153 at-bats in his rookie season. “The first thing I learned, when the first day of camp hits, make sure you’re prepared and ready to go. It’s a different situation this year. It’s something you can’t control, so do the things you can.”
Around the horn
Reliever Luis Ayala still is making up his mind about whether he’ll play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. He said he’ll likely have a decision Saturday. ... Showalter said newcomer Alexi Casilla will play primarily at second base this spring, but he will be used at other infield positions so that the team can be prepared for any eventuality. ... Showalter said Nolan Reimold will not see any playing time at first base this spring. The Orioles experimented with Reimold at first in the past. ... Eleven pitchers threw bullpen sessions Friday: Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Todd Redmond, Adam Russell, Dylan Bundy, Zach Clark, Steve Johnson, T.J. McFarland and Mike Wright. ... Relievers Darren O'Day, Jim Johnson and Ayala have yet to throw bullpen sessions and will likely not for another day or two as Showalter is pacing them slowly because of the elongated spring training. ... Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada continued his rehab from Tommy John surgery with a long toss session from about 270 feet. ... Ed Smith Stadium is hosting the Snowbird Classic college tournament, which will feature Notre Dame, Ohio State, St. John's, Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast. There will be eight games in all, seven at Ed Smith Stadium and one at the Twin Lakes Park complex.
Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.