10/22/2003 5:19 PM ET
Positional analysis: Second base
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
Brian Roberts (left) came through the farm system as a shortstop. (Gail Burton/AP)
BALTIMORE -- Jerry Hairston was on his way to a potential All-Star season before breaking his right foot while swinging at a Kevin Appier pitch in May.
Hairston, after years of inconsistency, had finally locked down the second-base position with his impressive play. But he was hurt and missed three months, allowing Brian Roberts to take over the position and flourish.
When Hairston finally returned in September, Roberts was established as the starter and Hairston made spot starts at second base or designated hitter.
But Orioles management made a key decision while the team was finishing up the season. Roberts was moved to shortstop, and Hairston -- whose foot was nearing 100 percent -- finished at second base.
What will the Orioles do with two productive second basemen? Roberts finished 2003 with a solid .270 average and 41 RBIs in just 112 games.
Hairston showed the ability to reach base and had cut down on his uppercut swings and overaggressive approach.
"You know, before I got hurt, I was finally feeling like everything was clicking in," he said. "I know that it's my job to get on base and I was getting comfortable in that role."
With Hairston at 100 percent for Spring Training, it is likely Roberts will be permanently moved to shortstop. Roberts came through the Orioles' system as a shortstop but was moved to second after elbow surgery in 2000. He played 51 games at short in 2001 but committed 14 errors, encouraging a move to second base.
Roberts said he had become accustomed to second base but did not mind a move to shortstop.
"I came up as a shortstop and it's a position I learned to love," he said. "But I also enjoyed playing second base. But whatever position gets me on the field is where I want to play. I have always had the arm to play shortstop. There has never been a concern in my mind about that."
So Hairston is expected to start the season at second base while Roberts could play short. Rule 5 draft pick Jose Morban made 12 appearances at second base this past season, but he is expected to start the year at Triple-A Ottawa.
The organization projects Morban as a shortstop, although he has the athleticism to play three infield positions.
Hairston is expected to go through more rehabilitation on his right foot and work on his speed and agility. He dealt with bone bruises on his right foot in September.
"I expected that I was not going to be 100 percent, but it was important for me to come back last season," he said. "But I promised myself that I would come back next season ready to go. I am excited already because I know I have a lot to prove."
If Roberts plays short, the Orioles likely will seek a backup infielder. Mike Bordick, who just finished a one-year deal with Toronto, is a possibility.
Meanwhile, Mike Fontenot, who was the Orioles' Minor League Player of the Year in 2003, could be a factor late in the season or in 2005.
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