Sidelined since May when a slide into first base triggered a second set of concussion symptoms, Roberts' baseball future remains uncertain . On Friday morning, Roberts took part in pre-workout activities with his teammates at the Ed Smith Stadium Complex, an act that was undecided until 24 hours earlier.
He then played catch with shortstopJ.J. Hardybefore disappearing into his own world of seclusion, one that still leaves the Orioles both cautiousand concerned.
Roberts' regimen remains extremely limited. He hits off a tee in the batting cage, plays catch and lifts lightly. He has neither taken a ground ball nor a swing against live pitching , and he's not sure when that will be.
After the workout, Roberts' first meeting with reporters this spring did little to abate any concerns about his future— and his career. But the fact that Roberts was with the team for the official start of spring training was a small victory.
"It was good seeing Robby with the team," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He was pretty excited to get out there and run with everybody. He was almost as excited as we were to see him out there."
The Orioles hope more small victories add up to Roberts' return to the field— and Roberts said he's more optimistic about his future than earlier this offseason —but Roberts' said he can't focus on being ready by Opening Day or even predict when he will be able to play in any game.
"Every day that goes by you're more encouraged," Roberts said. "We've certainly had some rough patches for sure, but every day is a new day, and every day we're taking a step forward at this point."
There's no checklist for a return, Roberts said, only constant conversations with his doctors to monitor his progression. "Almost every night, we go through what I did that day and what I want to accomplish the next day," Roberts said. "Based on how you're feeling, you kind of move along with that."
Roberts wouldn't discuss any symptoms he needs to be aware of during his workouts, choosing to instead look forward. Roberts was reflective— which is how he likely has to be— saying there have been times when he's thought about abandoning his comeback. He couldn't say whether the concussions would affect the way he plays when he does return.
"My main objective is to be on the field every day," he said. "I want to play 162 games for the Orioles. My main objective is to try and help the Orioles win games —to help those guys in the locker room be the best they can be — and that's my goal every single day. If I can do that when I get on the field, I can't answer that today."
The answers weren't there, which is what makes Roberts recovery frustrating for all those involved. Rebounding from a concussion— let alone two since 2010— is an uncertain science.
"There's no physical limp, there's no physical bruise," catcher Matt Wieters said. "That's the hard thing about it, but he knows and everyone knows that Brian wants nothing more than to play this season. So whenever he feels like he's good to go, we'll be ready for him."
But the Orioles are left having to think about life without Roberts, who has played in just 98 games the past two seasons.
Robert Andino, who flourished in Roberts' absence, was at second base with the starters throughout the Orioles first full workout of the spring. The team has other options, including newcomers Ryan Flaherty, Matt Antonelli and returner Ryan Adams, there as well.
"This is uncharted territory for a lot of us, including Brian," Showalter said. "For the doctors, it's a moving target. We're learning more and more about it every day."
"It makes it something that you better not put a time frame on," Showalter added. "So it's only healthy for our club to go forward without that. If it happens, it will be a big kick in the pants a positive way, but who knows what happens a week after he comes back and plays? I don't know. I'm trying to move forward on both sides of it."
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