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A wary camper

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Brian Roberts wasn't completely comfortable discussing his potential trade to the Chicago Cubs and a departure from the only organization he has played for. But it beat fielding questions about the alternative - his inclusion in the Mitchell Report and his subsequent admission that he tried steroids once in 2003.

Roberts arrived at Orioles spring training yesterday and met with reporters for 10 minutes, most of it spent fielding questions about his future with the club, which drafted him in 1999 and has watched him develop into a two-time All-Star and one of the franchise's most popular players.

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"It's just a touchy situation just because I love the Orioles," Roberts said. "I've been here since Day One, and I do want to see this organization win. I've always said that. I made a commitment when I signed my deal. But certainly on the other hand, when you see two of your best players gone, a lot of unknown [players] come in - very talented I'm sure - but unknowns nonetheless. The organization essentially has conceded [that] we probably won't win for a couple of years. It's hard to swallow at first, but I'm here. Wherever I am Opening Day, I'll do my job."

Roberts chose his words carefully throughout the session with the media, which came before the team's first full-squad workout this spring. He was low-key, sarcastic and even defensive at times. With Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard having been traded and rumors of a potential deal with the Cubs swirling, Roberts wouldn't say definitively that he wanted to be the latest Orioles veteran sent out of town. However, he also made it clear he doesn't want to be part of a rebuilding process.

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"I would never call this organization and say, 'I want to be traded. I need to be traded,' " Roberts said. "I signed a contract. I signed a deal. I understand when I make a commitment, that's what I'm here for. But as I said earlier, you want to win. ... For this organization, if it's better to send me to another place and get a couple of pieces for down the road, I understand that, too. The sooner the chance I get to win, the better off."

Roberts, who is under contractual control by the Orioles through the 2009 season, has discussed his future with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. MacPhail described the second baseman as "curious" and encouraged Roberts to call him if he had any questions.

"I've tried to keep him apprised of where I thought things were," MacPhail said. "I know he's been the speculation of a lot of rumors, and I just wanted to give him the opportunity to ask any questions he wanted to ask and for me to tell him what I knew and what I thought. He was very careful and respectful not to really voice any trade demand or anything of that nature."

MacPhail said more than one team has shown interest in trading for Roberts, though the Cubs are believed to be the most aggressive suitor. Roberts called the Cubs "a great organization" and said Chicago would be a fun place to play. Roberts attended a 2003 National League Championship Series game between the Cubs and Florida Marlins as a guest of former teammate Jeff Conine and said he was amazed at the electric atmosphere at Wrigley Field.

At this point, the Cubs-Orioles trade talks, which have been going on for several months, are at a standstill and probably won't be resolved one way or another for a couple of weeks. The Orioles will scout several of their potential targets in trades during spring training games, which don't begin until late next week. That means Roberts' stay at Orioles' camp could last a little while.

"I tried to be as straightforward with him as I could about where we were and what I thought at this point so he knows," MacPhail said. "He's a pro's pro. It's been fine. I spoke with him this morning and actually the subject didn't come up. We talked about a couple of other matters."

Roberts also was forced to deal with other matters yesterday, specifically his December admission that he took a shot of steroids once in 2003. His admission was prompted by his inclusion in former Sen. George Mitchell's report on steroids in baseball.

"I told the truth. I made my statement. We'll move on from there," said Roberts, who wouldn't comment on what prompted his decision to try steroids. "It's life. You make bad decisions, you pay whatever price there is and you move on. It's not the end of the world. It's not the biggest thing in the world to me. It's really not. I've sincerely apologized, and I know I made a mistake."

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jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com


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