Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Second Chance for Roberts

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Second Chance for Roberts

Article excerpt

TAMPA, Fla. - Brian Roberts might have been on second base, the year could have been 2004 - the exact details aren't exactly clear.

But something Derek Jeter said during that long-ago Orioles- Yankees game still resonates with Roberts.

"He told me, 'You can hit .300 in this league,' '' Roberts said, recalling how the Yankee captain's encouraging words felt like a validation that he'd arrived as a player.

Of course, "he's probably told that to 150 guys," Roberts said with a smile.

All these years later, the Yankees' plan is for Roberts to become Jeter's final double-play partner. Roberts' rookie year was Cal Ripken Jr.'s last, and now Jeter has declared 2014 to be his final season.

"That was an amazing experience, to walk those last couple months with Cal," said Roberts, 36. "And now it's going to be an incredible experience to play with [Jeter] this year."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi boldly said his idea is to play Roberts at second base "almost every day," though Roberts has averaged just 48 games per season since 2010 due to various injuries.

Two concussions, groin problems and abdominal issues plagued him after signing his last Baltimore contract (four years, $40 million). Early last season, Roberts faced hamstring surgery and a ruptured right knee tendon.

"It always provides you a little more comfort when a guy finishes the season healthy," Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler said of Roberts' second half of 2013.

The Yankees quickly contacted Roberts after the switch-hitter became a free agent, but "with the idea that we weren't prepared to do anything at that time," Eppler said.

Not until the Mariners lured Robinson Cano to Seattle with $240 million.

Standing by his locker next to Jeter's at Steinbrenner Field, Roberts is still astonished by the turn of events that put him in pinstripes after a 13-year career spent entirely with Baltimore. …

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