Prior to this evening’s game with Kansas City, the Baltimore Orioles announced that second baseman Brian Roberts would be having surgery on his right hamstring. Roberts is expected to be able to resume baseball related activities in about six weeks, at which time he’ll report to Sarasota. If they need an extra spot on the 40-man r0ster, the Orioles could opt to transfer Roberts to the 60-day DL. To my knowledge, that’s not being done right away (only if needed).
This is undoubtedly a tough pill to swallow for Roberts, who at 35 is in the final year of his contract. As of right now the Birds are expected to continue platooning Ryan Flaherty and Alexi Casilla at second base until Roberts is able to return. The good news is that he is expected to be back this year if that timetable is any indication.
A lot of Orioles fans are expressing increasing frustration with this situation, as Roberts has only played in 118 games in the past four years. Furthermore, many people seem to cringe when they see Flaherty’s name in the lineup because that means he’ll be coming to the plate. Let me start by addressing the Roberts situation; this is a guy that’s meant a lot to the organization over the past 10-12 years. It certainly isn’t his fault that he keeps getting injured, especially this time when he pulled up lame on an attempted stolen base in the third game of the season. While it appears he’s “collected a paycheck” over the past four years, I don’t feel that’s exactly a fair statement. This is a guy that’s worked hard each time to get back into playing shape, only to have something else happen. It’s really easy for people to suggest that “he should give money back” to the organization. Who among us would sincerely consider doing that? (I can tell you one writer who I know would not.)
As for Flaherty, it’s easy to look at his batting average (.118 coming into tonight) and say that he shouldn’t be in the lineup or on the team. And that in and of itself might be a legitimate point. However Flaherty also has a 1.000 fielding percentage on the year. Again, I agree that the sub-Mendoza Line batting average is tough to justify. However an infielder with a glove that sure is a tough thing to find. It’s worth mentioning that throughout his career Mark Belanger hit .228 for his entire 18-year big league career. However he fielded at a .977 clip. Defense counts for just as much as offense, and that’s true in all sports. In no way am I comparing Flaherty to Belanger, however if he didn’t have a superior glove would he have been in the lineup everyday with that average? .228 is a far cry from .118, however the point is that Flaherty is in the lineup for his glove.
While the Roberts news appears a bit sorrowful, the good news is that as I said above it appears that he’ll be back this year. Does that mean that Flaherty is sent down when that happens? All things being equal, I think there’s a good chance that could be the case. However who knows what the situation is when Roberts is ready to return.