After he posted the second highest batting average in Arizona Fall League history in 2012, expectations for Twins outfield prospect Nate Roberts were soaring. Twenty months and two knee surgeries later, the 24-year-old is finally getting the chance to make good on his potential.
In his third game of the season and fourth since the end of 2012, Roberts went 4-for-5 with three doubles, three runs and two RBIs for Class A Advanced Fort Myers in a 12-1 win over Charlotte.
"I had pretty good expectations until I hurt my knee," Roberts said. "It was pretty disappointing. … It hasn't been too much fun."
After hitting .299 with a .433 on-base percentage in 76 games with Class A Beloit in 2012, the 2010 fifth-rounder hit .446 in 19 Arizona Fall League contests, winning the league's batting title with the second-highest average in league history.
With hopes high for a continued breakout in 2013, Roberts hurt his right knee during a preseason workout. He underwent surgery to repair cartilage in the joint, but after rehabbing, he reinjured the knee in his first game back with Fort Myers on May 13, 2013.
He had to undergo a second surgery, this one effectively ending his 2013 campaign. What followed was 13 months of recovery and rehab, including about 30 games in extended spring training this season, before he was able to return to the Fort Myers' lineup on June 19.
"It took me a while since I hadn't played," Roberts said. "I hadn't even run in eight or nine months before I started running a little in February. It took me a while to actually get to playing, get the muscles used to running."
Roberts helped Fort Myers jump to an early lead Monday, ripping a hanging breaking ball to right for an RBI double in the first inning. The hit was his first of the season -- he'd gone 0-for-4 in two games prior to Monday.
"[Blake Snell] had me with two strikes and left a slider up and over the plate," Roberts said. "I got it just past the first baseman [Patrick Leonard] and was able to go two."
He singled in another run in the third on a ground ball up the middle, later scoring on Max Kepler's single. After the Miracle piled up six runs in the third, Roberts led off the fourth with a double and scored on Dalton Hicks' sacrifice fly.
His final double was a one-out shot into center in the fifth -- Roberts and Niko Goodrum were stranded at second and third.
"It's been so long since I've been able to play in a real game and actually feel good with my body," Roberts said. "It's been fun playing baseball again, and to have a game like that, it makes it even more fun."
Minnesota's No. 5 prospect Jose Berrios earned the win, striking out eight while allowing one earned run over six innings. Berrios (8-2) scattered five hits while dropping his ERA to 2.05. Over his past seven outings, Berrios has 53 strikeouts, five walks and a 1.13 ERA in 40 innings.