FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -Saying that Baltimore was the only place he wanted to be, second baseman Brian Roberts yesterday signed his four-year, $40 million contract that could allow him to fulfill his goal of being an Oriole for his entire career.
"It's a day I'll never forget, that's for sure," Roberts, 31, said at a news conference at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. "I hope the fans realize that I won't take this contract for granted. I'm going to use it for the good of this organization and for the good of the community in Baltimore. That's something that has always been important to me, to leave a lasting impact beyond the baseball field. I have a great opportunity to do that in Baltimore."
Roberts' deal, which technically starts in the 2010 season, keeps him under contract through the 2013 season, at which time he'll be approaching his 36th birthday. Orioles president Andy MacPhail, who called it "an extraordinary, happy occasion for the club," said he isn't concerned that Roberts' productivity might dip significantly over the course of his contract.
"I don't know [that] I've been around many players, if any, that are as dedicated to keeping themselves in the kind of shape that Brian Roberts does," MacPhail said. "Plus, we did academic studies in the front office as to the longevity of second basemen. By the time Brian is through with the contract, there is an easy history of guys that have played well at that position up to that point in time. Knowing the player, that was something we had some comfort with."
MacPhail, who listened to countless trade offers after the 2007 season for the two-time All-Star, including aggressive overtures from the Chicago Cubs, said he was never close to dealing Roberts.
"Brian is the type of player that we're trying to have more of in the franchise," MacPhail said. "When you give up someone like that, you better make sure you're comfortable with what was coming back."
Roberts acknowledged that the allure of free agency, which he would have been eligible for after this season, was powerful, but he had other priorities.
"My goal all along was to play with one team my whole career," he said. "That's something that doesn't get to happen very often. You talk about the Tony Gwynns and the Cal Ripkens. I'm not anywhere near in their league or caliber of player, but just to have that opportunity, to be able to call one place home for 10 or 15 years of your professional baseball career, is so rare. That's what really excited me."
Manager Dave Trembley clarified the closer situation yesterday, indicating that George Sherrill is his primary closer. However, he also said Chris Ray, who was the team's closer for two seasons before getting hurt, will get save opportunities.
"There's no evaluation," Trembley said. "We're going to let people pitch, but I've pretty much said on record that George Sherrill is the closer. I've told him that doesn't necessarily mean that he'll get every save situation. We have the luxury of Chris Ray having done that before where he could get some of those opportunities."
Around the horn
There's no new word on the timetable for outfielder Felix Pie's arrival in camp. Minor league director Dave Stockstill is in the Dominican Republic trying to help move things along. ... Aubrey Huff was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame last night.
Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.