Essentially a non-factor the last 2 1/2 years, Brian Roberts is giving hope that he could reemerge as the Orioles’ starting second baseman this season.
Roberts went 3-for-3 with a homer against the Pirates on Friday. He’s 6-for-11 with two doubles in the early going this spring.
While the Orioles did little to upgrade their lineup over the winter, they’d get a big boost if Roberts returns as anything like his old self. Baltimore got nothing from its second basemen on its way to winning the wild card last year; only the Tigers (.577) had a worse OPS from the position in the American League. Orioles second basemen hit .213/.273/.323 and were successful on just five of 11 steal attempts.
The Orioles also struggled to get production from the top of the order both before they moved Nick Markakis into the leadoff spot and after he got hurt. Their .293 OBP from the first and second spots combined was better than only Seattle’s (.283) in the AL.
At 35, Roberts would be past his prime even if not for the concussion and hip problems that have taken a heavy toll. The guy who used hit .290 with 40-50 doubles, 10 homers and 70-80 walks is probably gone for good. Still, Roberts doesn’t need to return to All-Star form to provide the Orioles with a lift. A .260-.270 average with doubles power and steady defense would do the trick.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.