Craig Heist, wtop.com
BALTIMORE - After not playing in a game since May 16 last year at Fenway Park because of the effects of concussion-like symptoms, Brian Roberts will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie Wednesday night.
Roberts hopes the assignment is the final step toward making his return to the Baltimore Orioles. But after everything he's been through and the setbacks he's endured, there is a certain amount of apprehension about what Wednesday night will bring.
"I'm excited. Scared. A little bit of everything," Roberts said. "It's been a long time coming, for sure. Sometimes it seems like two days and sometimes it seems like 10 years, but I'm extremely excited."
The plan for Roberts is to rehab for 20 days. Just how that will take shape will depend on the circumstances and how his body responds as he goes through his rehab.
"I'll play second for the first day or two," he said. "I'll get a couple of at-bats and then mix in a DH (designated hitter) shortly after that, maybe a third day and then take a day off.
"You know, it will be whatever we feel like is right at the time. It's essentially spring training again."
Roberts' rehab assignment is scheduled to last 20 days, and the second baseman is planning on using all of it.
"It's been over a year and I need to get the at-bats. I've stood in on some bullpen sessions and it looks pretty fast so I need to get in there and see some pitches," he said. "The first days or the first week it's only going to be two at-bats a day or maybe three toward the end of that week.
"So it's going to take a little to build up to getting ready to play every day on the back-to-back situation and play a day game after a night game and play 18 innings and get 10 at-bats and all that sort of thing, so I'll use as much time as we can."
The biggest question surrounding Roberts now is if he can return to the player he once was.
"You know, I can't say I'm going to be Brian Roberts tomorrow," he said. "I'm not going to go out there probably and be running into walls tomorrow. But I am going to get out there and it's going to be a progression and I hope that by the time I join our major league team that yes, I'll be the same guy I was five years ago."
The news of Roberts heading out to start his rehab was met with great enthusiasm inside the Orioles' clubhouse, because almost everyone to a man understands what a healthy Brian Roberts can mean to this team going forward.
"He's the leader in this clubhouse," said Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. "He's the guy we would all like to have on the field so we're all hoping for the best for him and knowing that he's excited to get out there playing again."
"I think everyone is excited for him but there is so much unknown," said Orioles skipper Buck Showalter. "I wouldn't say it's anxiety, it's just the next step and he's prepared himself and I've seen how hard he's been working to get ready for this day.
"There's a nice little buzz about him going out of here. We all know he can make us better if we can get him back like he's capable."
Roberts admits he feels fine and he has been diving for ground balls during drills. He also suggested he may have to change his base-stealing tactics because when he dove back into a base in that game last year at Fenway, that's when his symptoms came back.
"You know, maybe I'll make some adjustments and I'll slide feet-first a little more often," he said. "I don't know, maybe it's just one of those situations that keeps evolving and every day I go out there, I'll get more and more comfortable I'm sure."
It's the last step in the long road to recovery. And in three weeks, the Orioles are hoping they will finally have their second baseman back.
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