Roberts sharpening stealing skills
All-Star at seven swipes in seven games after two more Monday
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Base by base and theft by theft, Brian Roberts is getting ready for the regular season. Roberts, Baltimore's second baseman, stole another two bases on Monday, giving him a career-high seven for Spring Training. Roberts has stolen third base three times already and looks set for an encore to his first 50-steal season.
"I'm just trying to get my legs in good baseball shape," said Roberts, one of three Orioles (along with Brady Anderson and Luis Aparicio) who have ever stolen 50 bases in a season. "It's one thing to work out all winter and run sprints, but I was as sore as I could be after the first two games. It's hard to simulate game speed."
Roberts has stolen his seven bases in seven games, a torrid pace that dwarfs anything he's ever done in Spring Training. The switch-hitter stole five bases in 23 games last spring, and set his previous career high with six in 2005. He had six games with at least two stolen bases last season, and already has three this spring, but he isn't reading too much into it.
The two-time All-Star stole twice with his team trailing by four runs Monday, a feat he wouldn't attempt in a regular game.
"In that situation in a real game, I might steal second, but I wouldn't steal third," Roberts said during the Orioles' 7-4 loss to the Dodgers. "You've got to do it in the right situations. I don't run just to run. I think a big aspect of it is doing it when you need to, when it counts and when it can help your team -- not just doing it for numbers."
Roberts said it really isn't a goal of his to steal more than 50 bases, and he said he wasn't sure that stealing more often would make him more productive. He also said that everything has to be working for anyone to steal that many, including the individual's hitting stroke and the people batting in front of and behind him in the batting order.
"You have to get on base, swing the bat a little bit and you have to have guys in your lineup that give you that opportunity," he said. "When Melvin [Mora's] hitting behind me, he's always been tremendous. I think if you'd ask him, he'd rather have me on third with one out than on first. He gives me the opportunity, and [stealing] gives guys behind me the chances for easy RBIs."
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley agreed with that assessment, and he gave a lot of credit for Roberts' spring steal totals to Mora, the man who often hits directly behind him. If Mora wasn't patient, Trembley said, Roberts would likely get far fewer opportunities to attempt to take the extra base.
"To be honest with you, I'd like to give Melvin some credit," Trembley said. "Melvin's taking some pitches, holding the catcher up, squaring around to bunt. They're working very well together as a team. ... Roberts is just one of the game's better basestealers. There's no question about that, and he's making an effort to show that and get himself ready for the season."
Juan Samuel, Baltimore's third-base coach and a former base-stealer in his own right, said that Roberts could steal 70 bases if everything broke right for him in a given season. Samuel, who stole 50 bases twice and topped out at 73 in his rookie season, said that he's not surprised to see how quickly Roberts has moved into midseason form.
"I saw that last year. It's the same Brian," Samuel said. "If you don't keep an eye on him, he'll time pitchers very well. Once he gets going and times those guys, he's hard to throw out."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.