UPDATE: It's official. The Orioles have reinstated Roberts from the 60-day disabled list. To make room on the 25-man roster, Steve Tolleson has been optioned to Norfolk. To make room on the 40-man roster, Nolan Reimold has been transferred to the 60-day DL.
Today, at long last, is the return of Brian Roberts to the lineup. That is, weather permitting, because things are looking a bit dodgy with the forecast. Best uneducated guess is that the start will be delayed but the game should be able to be played.
For Roberts on the way back, it's been a long and circuitous journey. Sometimes it hasn't been much of a journey at all, because he was outright stopped. Many, including myself, assumed that his days as a baseball player were finished. We will still have to see how much that he has left in the tank - even prior to the concussion last season that knocked him out to this long, he'd been dealing with neck and back issues that left him looking like a less than effective player - but he's acquitted himself decently in his minor league rehab action and should have shaken off a bit of the rust.
Things feel right with Roberts back in there. He's been the best Orioles player over the last decade. From 2004 to 2010, his lowest OBP was .344. So far in the 2012 season, only Adam Jones (.345) and Mark Reynolds (.348) are above that lowest Roberts number in a seven-year stretch of his career. Roberts ranks 18th on the franchise career games played list, 13th in total bases, 5th in doubles, and 3rd in stolen bases, among equally high rankings in several other categories. If he has any shred of productivity left at all he will march a bit higher on these lists. It's great to have him back.
Roberts and the rest of the Orioles lineup will be up against Brad Lincoln, a reliever making an appearance in the rotation thanks to an injury to Charlie Morton. Pitching for the first-place Pirates (yes, really), Lincoln threw 20 innings in relief across 13 games and racked up a 0.45 ERA. He struck out 23 batters against 7 walks. Holy crap. He's only made two starts this year, with a 6.30 ERA in those. Hopefully the Orioles hitters will work the spot starter and particularly take advantage of him in the second and third times through the order.
The Pirates have the worst offense in baseball. The team slash line is .224/.278/.358. They have the worst OBP in MLB by a margin of 17 points under the second-worst team. They are the only team in MLB that has scored fewer than 200 runs. They strike out 23.1% of the time, which is the highest in baseball. Their lineup this year is Andrew McCutchen, a couple of guys who are kind of vaguely decent and the rest is a suckfest. These are the guys Wei-Yin Chen has to beat tonight. That offense is so bad on paper that you have to like the O's chances this whole series, but with Brian Matusz fouling a pitch off his nose during a bunt drill today, we've got two mystery starters in a row following this game. Make it happen for us, Wei-Yin.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||PITTSBURGH PIRATES|
|Brian Roberts - 2B||Alex Presley - LF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Neil Walker - 2B|
|Chris Davis - DH||Andrew McCutchen - CF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Casey McGehee - 1B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Matt Hague - DH|
|Wilson Betemit - 3B||Pedro Alvarez - 3B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Jose Tabata - RF|
|Steve Pearce - LF||Rod Barajas - C|
|Endy Chavez - RF||Clint Barmes - SS|