JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -Andy MacPhail said Wednesday that he's not close to completing a deal that would send Brian Roberts to the Chicago Cubs and that the two-time All-Star would likely begin the season as the team's second baseman.
``I've mentioned to Brian that I think it's unlikely that something happens,'' said MacPhail, the Baltimore Orioles president of baseball operations.
Roberts has been the subject of trade rumors for three months, and the Cubs would like to add him to their revamped lineup as a leadoff hitter. MacPhail has already dealt away shortstop Miguel Tejada to Houston and left-handed ace Erik Bedard to Seattle as part of his overhaul of an Orioles franchise that has not had a winning season in a decade.
Thus far, MacPhail has not been presented with a suitable package of players in exchange for Roberts.
The Cubs and Orioles have been talking about Roberts since before spring training, and scouts from each team have been watching the other's players in major and minor league games for weeks.
``I think with each passing hour, at this point, it's less and less likely. ... The further we get this close into (the regular season), the greater likelihood that we're going to start with what we have,'' MacPhail said.
The 29-year-old Roberts has met several times with MacPhail this spring, most recently last weekend, to be updated on the progress of trade discussions.
Roberts, who hit .290 with 12 homers, 57 RBIs and a career-high 50 stolen bases last year, has missed the past two games with a sore lower back and was pulled out of Tuesday's starting lineup because of the injury. That fueled brief speculation, quickly struck down by manager Dave Trembley, that a deal had been consummated.
``There's no conspiracy theory. I wouldn't do that,'' Trembley said. ``If something was going on with Brian Roberts, I wouldn't have his name posted in the lineup and then pull him. ... I'd tell the truth.''
Asked after Wednesday's 8-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals if Roberts would stay with the Orioles for all or most of the season if he was their starting second baseman on March 31, MacPhail replied: ``You don't know for certain.''
Roberts is expected to return to the lineup Friday, when the Orioles conclude their Grapefruit League schedule with a home game against the New York Mets. He is hitting .273 with six RBIs and seven steals this spring.

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