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Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Roberts, just another guy with Yanks

By Andrew Marchand

TAMPA, FLA. -- Diana Roberts is used to being recognized. As Brian Roberts' wife in Baltimore, everyone knew her husband was a two-time All-Star and, when healthy, one of the most important players on the Orioles.

Earlier this week, she was entering George M. Steinbrenner Field when a security guard stopped her.

"Diana, right?" the guard said.

She said, "Yeah."

The guard responded, "I don't know your last name."

Later, she said told Brian, "That was so odd for me. Usually, they are like, 'you are Brian's wife.'"

That is now the life of Brian Roberts, unsung Yankee. Once the face of the Orioles' franchise, he is now just another face in the crowd.

He is trying to follow in the Yankees' recent tradition of extending the careers of former stars.

"It is just different to be the guy in the back that no one knows about or cares about," said Roberts, who faced his old club on Tuesday night at Steinbrenner Field. "I think that does help guys at times when you are trying to get back on your feet."

The Yankees are hoping the injury-cursed Roberts, 36, will follow the model of Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez, not Travis Hafner or Vernon Wells. They have liked Roberts' game for a long time.

During the first week of free agency and months before Robinson Cano fled to Seattle, assistant general manager Billy Eppler contacted Roberts' agent.

"Just to say, 'Hey, look, we always appreciated the way he has played, but we have to let some situations sort of vet themselves over here first,'" Eppler said prior to Tuesday's game. "We should stay in touch through the process. If you are going to come off the board or you are going to make a decision soon, let us know. If we are going to close on something else or we are out, I will give you the heads-up."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn't really see much of Roberts because he only averaged 48 games per season since Showalter became the manager in 2010.

"He's got a little more thump than people think," Showalter said.

Eppler said they think the switch-hitting Roberts' lefty swing could play well with the right porch. When Roberts has been healthy, he has racked up doubles (an AL-best 56 in 2009) and has hit for some power (16 in 2009).

"We really like the way he plays the game," Eppler said.

Roberts lockers near Derek Jeter and knows he doesn't have to be the go-to guy anymore for the media and fans.

"I think they just want me to be on the field with a uniform on and the rest is just icing on the cake," Roberts said.

That's the plan.

"I don't know about 150 games, but I think if he performs the way that he is capable of we would like to play him as much as we can," Joe Girardi said.