Roberts strikes out three times in debut

Roberts strikes out three times in debut

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said he had no pain in his back and was in good spirits following his first three plate appearances -- all of which were strikeouts -- in his Spring Training debut Friday against the Minnesota Twins.

"It felt good to put a uniform on and go play," said Roberts, who has been sidelined with a herniated disk in his lower back suffered during offseason workouts in Arizona. "Certainly it's different than batting practice.

"Just a matter of getting in the box and seeing some live pitching. Physically, it felt pretty good."

Roberts has said previously that getting into game action this week would keep him in line to start the April 6 opener against the Tampa Bay Rays. He repeated that sentiment following Friday's performance, light-heartedly mentioning that if he can't get out of bed on Saturday morning those plans could change.

"I didn't do a whole lot, so I can't imagine it will be too bad [Saturday morning]," Roberts said of how he expects his back to feel. "If I had been running around a lot more, diving and stuff, but I didn't really. ... Swinging, I don't think will have any ill effects. I can't imagine that it would."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said it was good to see Roberts out on the field, pointing out the second baseman's enthusiasm all night; an emotion telegraphed by the wide grin on Roberts' face. But the most important message to come out of Friday's game was the reinforced notion that the team's leadoff hitter will be ready for the regular season.

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"I had every reason to be confident that he'd be ready April 6 and there's nothing that ever changed my mind," Trembley said. "I trust my players; I trust what's been going on. [Friday] was just the first step in making that a reality."

Facing Twins Opening Day starter Scott Baker, the switch-hitting Roberts batted as a lefty three times, and managed to foul off at least one pitch in each at-bat. He went down looking in the first inning and swinging in the fourth and sixth.

Roberts smiled when asked about his timing at the plate, which he dubbed "obviously, not stellar." But given that Friday was the first time Roberts has been in a game situation since last season, he wasn't concerned about looking a little lost at the plate.

"My last at-bat, actually I started to finally feel a lot more comfortable in the box. My first two, I was pretty clueless," Roberts said. "But that's the way it is every year. It doesn't take long; it only takes a couple of at-bats just to kind of get your timing going, see the velocity. That's the biggest thing; you just haven't seen velocity up until this point."

Trembley said he could "care less" about Roberts' results at the plate; joking that infield coach Juan Samuels needs to work on throwing better batting practice. The real test was watching Roberts take full hacks at the plate -- particularly swinging and missing -- without any pain.

Roberts played five innings in the field with his first action coming when he slapped the tag on Twins catcher Wilson Ramos as he attempted to steal in the second inning. Roberts caught Ramos' infield fly in the fourth and fielded a pair of routine ground balls to go errorless in his first game action at second base.

One of baseball's premier leadoff hitters, Roberts has played in at least 155 games in the past three seasons. He hit .283 with a .356 on-base percentage and a .451 slugging percentage in 159 games last year, hitting a franchise-record 56 doubles. The number set the all-time single-season mark for two-baggers in a season by a switch-hitter.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.