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Opening Day a step toward everyday for D-backs’ Roberts

“Breathe.” That’s what Ryan Roberts was telling himself during Friday’s
Opening Day pre-game ceremony at Chase Field.

It has been a long time coming for the Diamondbacks’ third baseman.
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2003 Draft, the 31-year-
old Roberts spent the majority of his first seven years of professional
baseball traveling through the minor league circuit. “Ryno,” as he’s known
by D-backs’ Manager Kirk Gibson, labored through an arduous 721 minor
league games, taking nearly 3,000 at-bats, playing every position but
pitcher and accumulating more than 30 tattoos in the meanwhile.

And Roberts moved around more than just the baseball diamond. The
super utility man played for nine teams in eight different states and two
different countries before landing a spot in the D-backs’ starting lineup
yesterday.

“I’ve played [baseball] my whole life,” Roberts said after Friday’s game,
“and to finally get here and run out on the field in the [Opening Day]
starting lineup was awesome.”

And then, the sixth inning happened, when Roberts summoned his
signature move — something he honed last season, the thing that,
perhaps, earned him his spot on Friday’s card: the clutch hit. With the
bases loaded and Tim Lincecum on the mound in a 3-3 tie with the Giants,
Roberts drove in two runs with a hard-hit double to deep left field,
providing what would ultimately be the difference for the D-backs.

Last season, Roberts played a career-high 143 games for the D-backs,
accruing a .249 batting average,
.341 on-base percentage, 19 home runs, and 65 RBIs. Moreover, he earned
his manager’s blessing by the postseason, getting the nod in all five of the
D-backs’ playoff games.

Still, heading into the 2012 season, critics doubted Roberts’ effectivity as
an everyday third baseman, calling last year’s production a fluke; his knack
for the clutch, unreliable. But, naysay as they may, Ryan Roberts of 2012 —
the ordained everyday third baseman and Opening Day starter — had a
little 2011 in him Friday.