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Monday, February 17, 2014
Girardi: Brian Roberts to start at 2B

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- Brian Roberts hasn't been able to stay on the field as an every-day second baseman since 2009, but that didn't stop New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi from naming Roberts as Robinson Cano's successor.

"That is the plan, for him to be our second baseman," Girardi said Monday. "I know he hasn't played a full season in the last few years, he's obviously a guy who has some age on him too, but my plan is to run him out there every day."

Brian Roberts
Brian Roberts says he's "not going to try to be" Robinson Cano this season, playing second base for the Yankees. "I'm going to be Brian Roberts and hopefully that is good enough."

The 36-year-old Roberts played in 77 games in 2013, his most since playing in 159 in 2009. He's had many injuries, the toughest being concussions -- the effects of which have now ceased for nearly two years, he said.

Though Roberts plays the same position as Cano, he doesn't think he is going to replace the Seattle Mariners' $240 million man.

"Robbie is such a special player, I'm not going to go in and be Robbie," said Roberts, who signed for $238 million and nine years less than Cano's 10-year deal. "Nobody will be. Our goal is to put nine guys on the field to win a game. My goal is to try and help us do that.

"I'm sure there are going to be people who are going to want to look out there and say, 'He is not Robbie.' I'm not going to be Robbie and I'm not going to try to be. I'm going to be Brian Roberts and hopefully that is good enough."

In 2013, Roberts started off well in the Orioles' first two games of the season, going 4-for-8 at the plate, before popping his hamstring tendon in game No. 3 trying to steal a base.

"That was really frustrating for me," said Roberts, who finished the year at .249. "I thought I was in a place where I thought I was going to bounce back and be myself again."

Girardi doesn't really have any other options besides Roberts.

Kelly Johnson can play second, but he is slated to be at least in a platoon at third. Eduardo Nunez has limited experience at the position and Dean Anna, an infielder the Yankees acquired from the San Diego Padres, has never appeared in a major league game. Brendan Ryan also is a possibility to play the position.

Roberts, a two-time All-Star, will team with Derek Jeter in his final season. In 2004, when Roberts was 26 and Jeter already an established star at 30, the Yankees captain made a big impression on Roberts with some kind words.

"You can hit .300 in this league," Roberts remembers Jeter telling him at second base one game.

It made an impact on Roberts. The year before, he had hit .270. In 2004, he finished at .273. In 2005, he batted .314, was an All-Star and hit more doubles than anyone else in baseball. Roberts might have hit .300 anyway, but he thinks Jeter boosted his confidence.

"To hear it from someone like that, it just kind of opens your eyes," said Roberts, who was also a teammate of Jeter's at the World Baseball Classic in 2009. "I don't think it's just me, I think he does it to everybody. But for some reason when he tells it to you, you think you're the most important person in the world. He's just kind of got that personality, and he's so good with people."

Roberts has watched a farewell tour of a legendary shortstop before. In 2001, when Roberts was a rookie with the Orioles, Cal Ripken Jr. said goodbye.

"I remember him hitting a home run in the eighth [inning] or something in Atlanta, and he got a curtain call," Roberts said. "When does that ever happen? I could see the same thing here happening [with Jeter]. There's such a select few guys that have meant what they've meant to the game, and it's going to be an incredible experience to play with him this year."