After missing the majority of the 2011 season due to the effects of a major concussion, Brian Roberts is set to make his season debut on Tuesday. It’s uncertain what level of performance to expect from the long-time Oriole, now 34, but getting his bat in the lineup effectively relieves Robert Andino and his .299 on-base percentage from starting duty, which can’t hurt.
Roberts first broke out as a 27-year-old in the 2005 season, flashing unexpected power (18 homers, 45 doubles) en route to hitting .314/.387/.515. While the two-time All-Star has never since approached that level of production, he’s been a great asset at a position where most teams don’t get a lot of offensive production, posting an OPS+ of 114 from 2005-2010. In that same period, he was an excellent table setter as well, reaching base at a .368 clip thanks to a walk rate just south of 11%.
While Roberts was not at his best when he did play last season, he had still not fully recovered from a self-inflicted concussion that happened near the end of 2010. During limited action in 2011, all he managed to do was contribute 0.1 WAR to the Orioles and suffer a second concussion. Roberts was relatively productive in his 34 at-bat minor league rehab assignment, as he hit .235/.357/.471 with six extra-base hits and seven walks.
The steadily declining Orioles are hoping Roberts can give the team some new life. After finishing April 14-9 and holding on to first place in baseball’s toughest division for most of the season, Baltimore is 3-4 in June with a -15 run differential.