Brian Roberts Or Robert Andino? It's A Chemistry Question
On May 21, the Orioles and Brian Roberts said the team's former leadoff hitter and All-Star second baseman could be well enough to do a minor league rehab assignment during the next few weeks before returning to the Orioles. On May 22, they announced that Roberts will indeed be down in Double-A Bowie May 23.
Roberts and manager Buck Showalter spoke to the media Monday before the team's 8-6 loss to the Red Sox and Roberts indicated he had made strides in his recovery from post-concussion-related symptoms. Last week marked the one-year anniversary of Roberts' last game in an Orioles uniform. Roberts injured himself at the end of the 2010 season by hitting his head with a bat. He played to open the 2011 season, but struggled mightily and ultimately sat out the rest of the season after playing May 16.
He's been working with doctors and medical officials to recover and his injury has been frustrating to fans and the team. The Orioles are paying Roberts $10 million this season and next, so they have quite a bit invested financially and through other resources.
His current replacement, Robert Andino, was always a backup plan. The Orioles are paying him about $1.3 million this year. Andino, though, has become a "glue guy" and one of manager Buck Showalter's favorite players. Andino has no filter on the field and will do anything for a win. He's batting .263 with a .313 on-base percentage. Andino has less power potential than Roberts in his prime and has settled in nicely in the nine hole in the lineup.
The problem with Roberts, beyond his big salary, is that he's one of the best leadoff hitters in the game when healthy. Take that a step further and you wonder whether Roberts is about 60 to 70 percent of his former self. Is that better than a fully healthy Robert Andino? This is the kind of question football coaches usually deal with when an injured star quarterback returns to a team on a roll with a different guy under center.
A relatively healthy Roberts gives the Orioles an answer to its lingering leadoff issue. Although it's still far too early to tell, Xavier Avery has acquitted himself nicely at the top of the order during the last two weeks, batting .278 with a .366 on-base percentage, five walks, one stolen base and four extra-base hits.
If Avery can become a long-term answer at leadoff, that further complicates matters. If Roberts is ready to go in a month and the Orioles are still rolling, he could push the Orioles from a good team to something else. That's not something he's been able to do during his All-Star career.
Roberts could also be a solution at second base, where Andino has played OK, but has seven errors early during the season.
Roberts has never played in a game with stakes in September and it would be criminal, in some ways, if he doesn't get to be part of the O's renaissance, if that's indeed what's happening.
This is not an easy thing for Showalter, who has loyalty to Andino, but knows Roberts' potential. Roberts began his career trying to win second base from Jerry Hairston Jr., and now he might have to do it all over again.
The Orioles, despite their two-game losing streak, are at one of their best spots in recent memory. By adding an All-Star, the Orioles could mess with chemistry or bolster it.
What would you do?
Posted May 22, 2012. Updated May 23, 2012