- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.

Brian Roberts and the Baltimore Orioles are close to an agreement on a four-year, $40 million extension that could keep the second baseman with the team through the 2013 season.

Roberts tried to contain his enthusiasm Thursday as he prepared for the team’s first full-squad spring training workout. He dressed at his locker, took his physical, shook hands with teammates he hadn’t seen all winter and ate breakfast in front of his cubicle.

After the results of the physical come back, the Orioles are expected to hold a press conference Friday to announce the extension. Roberts is already signed through this season; the extension would start in 2010.

“Obviously, it’s fairly close to being done,” Roberts said. “I think we’re all excited about the possibility that it is where it is. It’s been a long process, but hopefully in the end it’ll work out and both sides are happy. I think it’ll be a relief of some sort.”

Roberts insisted that he would have played hard this season, even if an agreement had not been reach on an extension.

“I guess the only way to put it is you can’t worry too much about your contract. If it hadn’t worked out, I still would have gone out and played and not worried about it, and everything would have taken care of itself at the right time,” he said. “But given the circumstances that it does work out the way we wanted it to, then yeah, it’s great. It’s a big relief.

“It’s something that I think we put a lot of thought and a lot of work and a lot of effort into, and hopefully on both sides everybody feels like this is the best thing for the organization and myself and my family.”

Roberts, a career .284 hitter who has stolen at least 36 bases in each of the last three seasons, made it clear over the winter that he would cut off negotiations as Opening Day approached.

“I don’t think it really would have done either side much good to continue this process any more than we had to,” he said. “We went through it last spring, and it wasn’t fun for either side. We didn’t want to do that again.”

The Chicago Cubs tried to get Roberts last winter, but Orioles president Andy MacPhail wasn’t satisfied with the return and held on to his leadoff hitter. It proved to be a wise decision. Roberts set career highs with 181 hits, 51 doubles and eight triples. He also ranked third in the American League with 107 runs and fourth with 40 steals.

First baseman Aubrey Huff looks at right fielder Nick Markakis’ six-year, $66.1 million extension, signed last month, and the pending deal for Roberts and sees a commitment to winning by a team mired in a run of 11 straight losing seasons.

“Now that Brian’s signed, that takes a big weight off his mind,” Huff said. “He’s been the kind of guy the last few years that’s always been a trade rumor guy. I’ve been in his shoes before, and it’s kind of annoying having to answer the same questions about being traded. Now he has that security, and he knows he won’t have to talk about that for a while. And it sends a message to the rest of the league as well. It says, hey, this organization is starting to make the right moves and is pointed in the right direction.”

The Orioles selected Roberts with the 50th overall pick in the 1999 draft as compensation after free agent Roberto Alomar signed with the Cleveland Indians. He supplanted Jerry Hairston as the regular second baseman four years later but hasn’t played a meaningful game in September since putting on the uniform.

“I don’t think I would have made the commitment to even begin negotiations if I didn’t think that at some point in this process over the next four or five years that we wouldn’t have a chance to win,” he said.

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