For much of the past year, Brian Roberts has kept his deepest, darkest fears out of public view, choosing instead to put up a stoic front and sidestep any request to speculate about his painfully slow recovery from a pair of concussions.

Only in the past few weeks has he begun to shed any light on the months he spent waiting for the fog to lift. And — just hours before he celebrated his long-awaited return to the Orioles lineup with three hits and a sacrifice fly in Tuesday night's 8-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates — he said that for a big chunk of his time away he was convinced he would never play the game again.

"I'd say there were months at a time where I thought this would never occur," said Roberts, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI. "My doctor, even as recently as probably January when I saw him, he said he never had full doubts, but there were times throughout the process that the future looked so bleak."

It's a little easier to talk about now. Roberts came out from under that cloud of uncertainty to spend three weeks playing in the Orioles minor league system and rejoin the Orioles lineup for Tuesday night's interleague series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Camden Yards. His big performance rated him another milestone – his first postgame pie in the face – and left him choked with emotion.

"After I wiped it off I did [get choked up],'' he said. "All the fans were cheering around me and I got a little emotional again. Talk about feeling like part of the team. I hadn't felt like that in a long time."