Roberts' return? Could be tonight, weather permitting

Brian Roberts' 20-day injury rehabilitation assignment to the minor leagues ended yesterday, which means that he must either be activated from the 60-day disabled list for tonight's game or the club must get a waiver from Major League Baseball to extend the assignment. Every indication, however, has been that he will make his first start tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Weather permitting.

Manager Buck Showalter declined to say on Sunday just how he will use Roberts in his first few games, but there's a pretty good chance he could make his first start as the designated hitter to get his feet wet. That would also prevent him from getting his feet too wet if the intermittent rain predicted for today leaves the field soggy. Obviously, the infield is covered, but the bulk of the time a second baseman spends on the grass is in the shallow part of the outfield, so that could be a consideration.

Roberts has not played in a major league game since last May, when he suffered his second concussion in eight months diving into first base in a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He has endured a long and frustrating recovery period, and there still are plenty of questions to be answered when he finally gets on the field.

He has played just 98 regular season games over the past 2 1/2 seasons -- because of the concussions and a back injury in 2010 -- so it remains to be seen just how far back he will be able to come.

One thing is certain. Everybody will be rooting hard for him to make a successful comeback, and not just because of the tremendous impact that could have on the Orioles' uplifting 2012 season. He is a beloved player in Baltimore who has done great things both on the field and in the community. He deserves to put two years of discomfort and disappointment behind him.

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