FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- On a day when two Chicago Cubs scouts were on hand to watch him play, second baseman Brian Roberts stood out in the Orioles' otherwise dreary exhibition season debut yesterday.
Roberts went 1-for-2 with a walk, an RBI double, a run scored and two stolen bases in the Orioles' 16-3 loss to the Florida Marlins at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.
"That's how Brian Roberts plays the game," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "That's what he's going to have to do to make our offense go."
Roberts, who hit .290 last season with 12 homers, 57 RBIs and 50 steals, led off the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second and third, and then scored on Melvin Mora's chopper to the left side that was booted by third baseman Jorge Cantu.
The sequence, which was taken in by Cubs special assistant to the general manager Ken Kravec along with another Cubs scout, is an example of what makes Roberts so attractive to Chicago officials.
Looking for a leadoff hitter to jump-start their offense and get on base ahead of sluggers Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, the Cubs have targeted Roberts for months and there is a sense in the industry that the uncertainty with second baseman Mark DeRosa could accelerate the trade talks. DeRosa underwent a procedure yesterday to correct an irregular heartbeat.
The Orioles will dispatch a scout to Arizona next week to look at some of the players being discussed. Both sides feel confident that a deal could get done, but not immediately, as talks are expected to continue for a few more weeks.
"I don't think about those things that I don't control," Trembley said. "I've talked to Brian many times and the way he played today says a lot about him as a professional."
The games don't count in spring training, but the results matter to Orioles reliever Jamie Walker.
Walker allowed five runs in the fourth inning and couldn't get the last out before leaving the game. Cody Ross hit a three-run homer off Walker, and he exited after Cantu singled.
"I always care," he said. "Basically, before I went out there, I said, 'Just throw strikes.' I hadn't faced hitters. I felt good. I just didn't make pitches today.
"I didn't walk anybody, I just couldn't get the ball down. I gave up the [home run] on an 0-2 changeup that was belt-high, and that's where they should be hit. I've got some work to do to get the ball down."
The Marlins had two doubles and two singles off Walker, who also hit a batter.
Around the horn
The Orioles were short one outfielder and one infielder yesterday. Jay Payton has bronchitis and didn't report to camp. He's on antibiotics and must receive clearance from doctors before being allowed to play. Brandon Fahey had fluid drained from his thigh and wasn't available, but he's expected to appear in today's game against the Marlins in Jupiter. "That is something he did last year and it wasn't a painful situation; it didn't inhibit him from playing," Trembley said. ... Reliever Rocky Cherry turned in two scoreless innings. Jon Leicester didn't allow a run in 1 1/3 innings. Guillermo Quiroz went 2-for-2, and Adam Jones walked twice.