Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts had a $40 million contract extension waiting for him to sign after Friday's workout. Typical of the attitude he brings to the team, he insisted first on running sprints in the outfield. Everything else could wait.
With his cardio exercises done, Roberts scribbled his name on a new four-year deal, which begins in 2010. He already was due $8 million this year and would have been eligible for free agency after the World Series. His new deal calls for salaries of $10 million annually through 2013.
"The city of Baltimore has really become my second home," Roberts said. "North Carolina, where I grew up, will always be my first, I guess, but I've come to love the city, the fans. A lot of people had asked me, certainly with free agency looming, about the lure of the opportunity to go out and look at every team in major league baseball and see where you wanted to play. This was the only place I wanted to be the rest of my career.
"My family has taught me from Day 1 _ my parents, my dad certainly _ the value of loyalty. The Oriole have shown that to me. I wanted to show it back."
Roberts is a career .284 hitter since breaking into the majors in 2001. Last year, he set career highs with 181 hits, 51 doubles and eight triples, and finished in the top 25 in the American League in 15 categories, including runs (third with 107) and stolen bases (fourth with 40).
"This is going to help ensure that we continue to be strong up the middle, a component that is necessary for us to contend and play in the postseason," president Andy MacPhail said. "It's consistent with the club's emphasis and focus on defense. And it's another example of the commitment we have to our homegrown players, which I think is a great message that we send to some of those young kids that are part of his organization _ that if you do well, then you have the opportunity to be rewarded and hopefully stay in an Orioles uniform throughout your career."
The Orioles selected Roberts with a supplemental pick in the 1999 draft as compensation for losing free-agent Roberto Alomar. He replaced Jerry Hairston as the regular second baseman four years later. His deal Friday follows the six-year, $66.1 million extension given to right fielder Nick Markakis last month.
"It's a great message that has been sent at a very rough time to our organization, to our fans and to our city, how important all these guys are to us in the future and the direction that we're going," manager Dave Trembley said.
Roberts hopes Orioles fans realize he won't take this contract for granted.
"I'm going to use it for the good of this organization and for the good of the community in Baltimore," he said. "That's something that's always been so important to me, to leave a lasting impact beyond the baseball field with my career."
This has been an eventful winter for Roberts, who lost his bachelor status last month.
"Obviously, marriage is a huge step in your life," he said. "It's a big commitment that I'm excited about, and this is also another big step and a huge commitment from the organization and myself. ... It will probably be the most eventful winter of my life."
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