ANAHEIM, Calif. - After nearly six weeks, Brian Roberts admitted what many suspected.
"I probably put a little too much pressure on myself early on," the 36-year-old second baseman said Tuesday night after providing the winning margin with a ninth-inning home run in the Yankees' 4-3 victory over the Angels.
Pressure from replacing one of the best in the sport, Robinson Cano, who signed with the Mariners in the offseason for $240 million over 10 years, and pressure from performing in New York.
Throughout the spring, Roberts said, "I'm not going to be Robbie," his way of lessening the pressure, but saying it didn't mean the veteran didn't feel it.
"I feel like I've gotten a lot more comfortable," said Roberts, who entering Wednesday night had seven hits in his previous 14 at-bats, raising his average to .250 from the .156 on April 20.
Replacing Cano, while a significant mental burden, wasn't the only issue. There was the shock to the system of coming to New York after spending his entire 13-year career in Baltimore.
"I've always said it has to be hard for guys to switch teams all the time because I was always so comfortable," Roberts said. "And certainly when you're going to New York and filling in for somebody who played as well as Robbie did and stuff like that, yeah, it's human nature to probably try too hard at times."
But even as Roberts' average bottomed out in April, manager Joe Girardi discussed how hard the second baseman was hitting the ball, a contention backed by the statistics. According to fangraphs.com, Roberts' line-drive percentage was at 26, several ticks higher than his career percentage of 23.1.
"I think he's played pretty well," Girardi said before Wednesday night's game. "He's probably been one of our unluckiest hitters."
Because Roberts played on so many bad Orioles teams, people often overlooked how good a second baseman he was when healthy. But therein was the problem in recent years as Roberts, a two-time All-Star, was limited to an average of 48 games the last four seasons because of various injuries.
"It's great," said Roberts who, other than missing a few games in mid-April with back soreness, has been healthy. "I can't put into words how tough those couple years were for me to not be on the field. For the Yankees to give me an opportunity to come here and say they really wanted me to play often, as much as I could. I know that was a huge step for them to go out on the limb a little bit. I'm having a lot of fun."
Notes & quotes: Girardi declined to comment on Mariano Rivera's recent remarks in a recently published autobiography about Cano. "Those are Mariano's comments and it's probably why I've chosen not to write books," Girardi said. "I've had plenty of opportunities with some of my experiences and right now I just don't think it would be a good idea for me." Rivera questioned Cano's desire to put in the work to be truly great and said if he could have his pick of a second baseman behind him, it would be Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox . . . Brian McCann did not start Wednesday night as Girardi again paired starter Vidal Nuño with John Ryan Murphy. "He's fine," Girardi said of McCann.