A show of faith in O's future

The Baltimore Sun

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Brian Roberts stamped his personal seal of approval on the new direction of the Orioles' franchise yesterday as he waited for some medical tests to be completed and his new four-year, $40 million contract extension to be finalized.

"I don't think I would've made the commitment to even begin negotiations if I didn't think that at some point in this process of the next four or five years that we [would] have a chance to win," Roberts said before the Orioles' first full-squad workout yesterday.

"I hope people interpret it as the fact that we are going in the right direction. We're putting faith in the people in charge that we can get to that point. It's not going to be easy, especially in our division. But I think Tampa Bay and some other teams have proven that you can do it. It just takes the right pieces at the right time."

Roberts, 31, took a physical examination yesterday, and the club is expected to hold a news conference this afternoon at Fort Lauderdale Stadium to announce the deal. The four-year extension will start in 2010, meaning Roberts will be under contractual control of the Orioles through 2013, at which time he'll be 36.

The deal took compromise from both sides as Roberts was willing to lower his demands for money - he originally was seeking $12 million to $13 million per year - for the Orioles to make a commitment for more than a three-year extension. Roberts and his agent, Mark Pieper, wanted negotiations wrapped up early in spring training so the second baseman, who has been the subject of trade rumors for the past two seasons, could concentrate on preparing himself for the season.

That's one of the reasons Roberts said yesterday morning that the deal, which he acknowledged was "fairly close to being done," was a relief.

"That was our goal from the outset, starting in October - to be patient, to give us time to get what we wanted to get done but to have it done at a certain point," Roberts said. "This is one of the points that we talked about. I don't think it would've done either side much good to continue this process any farther than we had to. I went through it last spring, and it wasn't fun for either side. I don't think we wanted to do it again.

"If something hadn't worked out, I still would have gone out and played and not worried about it and everything would have taken care of itself at the right time. But given the circumstances if it does work out the way we want it to, it's great. It's a big relief for myself, my family. It's something we've put a lot of work, a lot of thought and a lot of effort into."

In citing the reasons he wanted to get a deal done to stay in Baltimore, Roberts, who was married this offseason, pointed to the importance of loyalty and his desire to remain with one organization for his entire career.

"I probably wouldn't have thought I'd be here at this point doing this, but God has a plan," Roberts said when asked about all the trade rumors he has dealt with. "I had no idea what it was then, but it's certainly a lot more clear now than it was then. You go through times in your life when there is an unknown. Everybody goes through that. You hopefully learn from that and go through new experiences. What I have tried to do is handle it the best way you can. A year later, here we are."

Several players and coaches approached Roberts at his locker yesterday to offer their congratulations. Nick Markakis, who signed a six-year, $66.1 million deal last month, and manager Dave Trembley also praised the deal as another step in the right direction for the organization.

"It's a great message that has been sent at a very rough time to our organization, to our fans and to our city how important all these guys are to us in the future and the direction that we're going," Trembley said. "I think it shows a great deal about the sense of commitment that [club president] Andy MacPhail and [team owner] Mr. Angelos feel and have moved on. We like to say character counts, and it certainly does in both of those instances."

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