- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

NEW YORK Brian Roberts was called up from Class AAA Rochester on May 21. One day later, he was told he'd be the Baltimore Orioles' new starting second baseman. And understandably, he felt the pressure to perform right away.
"It's just normal to try to do a little too much, to try and make it seem like you should be here," said Roberts, who hit a paltry .179 over his first eight games. "That's natural. I had to try to get out of it as quick as possible before I killed myself."
Rest assured, Roberts isn't entertaining those thoughts now. In fact, the Orioles might soon be killing themselves for not calling up the 24-year-old sooner.
Roberts appears to have put his slow start behind him for good. Entering last night's game against the New York Yankees, he had seven hits in his last 12 at-bats, during which time he also stole four bases and scored four runs.
The key, Roberts said, was simply putting the shock of his sudden promotion behind him and focusing on the task at hand. That message was reinforced during a meeting with manager Mike Hargrove, who has noticed a more compact swing from the rookie.
"It was a surprise, but you just try to put it out of your head and do the same things you were doing," Roberts said. "It took me a week to get back to doing it, but hopefully I'm back to that point."
Hargrove still wants to make sure he gives 26-year-old Jerry Hairston ample playing time, because the former starting second baseman is batting .340 over his last 15 games. That could lead to more lineups like the one Hargrove drew up last night, with Hairston starting at second base and Roberts serving as designated hitter.
Hargrove has been particularly impressed with the way Roberts hasn't tried to do too much at the plate, relying instead on his natural talents.
"You don't see young players do that," Hargrove said. "They kind of wonder around trying to figure out what they're supposed to do, even though deep down they know exactly what it is they're supposed to do."

Taking it hard
Jeff Conine, one of the most intense competitors on the Orioles' roster, was extremely upset with himself for a botched defensive play Tuesday night that helped open the door to the Yankees' eight-run sixth inning. Conine, playing first base, attempted to start a 3-6-3 double play, made a poor throw to shortstop Mike Bordick and then failed to step on the bag on Bordick's return throw.
The Baltimore veteran was still steamed about the play long after Tuesday's game, but Hargrove (a former first baseman himself) doesn't worry about Conine's psyche.
"If Jeff Conine wasn't one of the players who plays the game the way it's supposed to be played and rarely made mistakes, then I would be concerned," Hargrove said. "But Jeff is not. He's maybe one of the most mentally strong individuals I've ever been around."

Draft ends
The 2002 MLB draft concluded yesterday, with the Orioles making their 23rd- through 50th-round picks. Among those selected were four area players: Baltimore natives Eddie Colbert (outfielder) and Charles White (catcher), Gaithersburg right-hander Ryan Childs and Hunt Valley, Md., righty Justin Nash.

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