Roberson in battle for final roster spot

Roberson in battle for final roster spot

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Chris Roberson is getting lonelier by the day, and that's just the way he likes it.

The more solitude Roberson enjoys on his side of the Phillies clubhouse -- home of the rookies and non-roster invitees -- the better his chances of making the team. He got a major boost on Monday, when he wasn't among the eight players sent to Minor League camp.

"It was like the grim reaper coming around here," Roberson said. "[Bench coach Gary Varsho] is walking around and hasn't said anything, so I'm all right. I'm trying to lay low. I guess I opened some eyes."

As low as Roberson has laid, his continued presence speaks to what the organization thinks of him. Though Spring Training stats can often be misleading, Roberson is hitting .289 (11-for-37) with two homers and two stolen bases.

Roberson and Chris Coste survived and appear to be competing for what could be the 25th roster spot, barring a trade. Catcher Sal Fasano, infielders Abraham Nunez and Alex onzalez, and outfielder Shane Victorino have secured spots. General manager Pat Gillick continues to search for a fifth outfielder, preferably a veteran, before the season opener.

Another spot would be open if David Bell isn't ready to start the season.

Could Roberson, who has never played above Double-A, but has plenty of winter ball experience, be that guy?

"I call him a late bloomer," said Manuel. "He's has a lot of plusses. He can run and throw, is a switch-hitter and has power."

Manuel quickly offered this caveat, when asked about whether Roberson can handle big-league pitching in a part-time role. While Roberson's skill set might be what the team is seeking -- he can play all three outfield positions, can run, throw and catch and is a switch-hitter with some power -- indications are that he might best be served by playing every day at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

That's because he hasn't played above Double-A and is best served getting regular at-bats.

"Pinch-hitting usually is a veteran's kind of thing," Manuel said. "It doesn't mean a young guy can't do it. Victorino came up last year, but he had played a full season. The longer Roberson sits on the bench, I think the pitching would get ahead of him. If he would get 200, 250 at-bats, maybe he could hold his own, but it's a concern that it would be a setback if he's sitting on the bench. But he's definitely in the loop."

Roberson can see the logic, but he would happily accept a reserve role. At 26, and with the extra seasoning from winter ball, the confident Roberson feels like he can handle the jump.

"I started [playing] pro baseball late, so that's what set me back," he said. "I'm right on that bubble. I've been talking about all offseason for the past two, three years. I'm always a little bit behind, but I tend to catch up. I've always been a late bloomer."

"[So jumping a level] would really help a lot," Roberson said, smiling.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.