CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The day Chris Roberson feared arrived sooner than expected, as the outfielder became one of 14 Phillies who were victims of the spring's first roster reduction. On Monday, Roberson and pitcher Anderson Garcia were optioned to Minor League camp, while catchers Tim Gradoville, Jason Hill, Jason Jaramillo and Lou Marson, infielder Andrew Beattie, outfielders Lou Collier and Greg Golson, and pitchers Jim Crowell, John Ennis, Jeff Farnsworth and Brian Mazone were reassigned to the Minor League complex. Yoel Hernandez, who last month was removed from the 40-man roster, was reassigned to Minor League camp. The Phillies' roster now stands at 46 players.
By demoting Roberson this early, the Phils sent a message that they wanted to see improvement from the 27-year-old, who hit .195 in 41 at-bats over 57 games last season in Philadelphia. He went hitless in 10 spring at-bats and had made some fundamental mistakes. "I still see him making mistakes he made three and four years ago," said Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant general Manager of scouting and player development. "He can't continue to do that. It's a matter of focus and consistency. He's got an opportunity to come back [to the Minors] and play every day. He can play in the big leagues, but there comes a point where he has to show us he's ready, or show 29 other clubs that he's ready. "We feel like some guys have outplayed him over here and realistically, he's not in the hunt to make that 25th spot," Arbuckle said. "We've got some other guys who have played better. We were honest with him. We told him that he has to be more consistent in his game. He has good ability and good tools, but still makes too many mistakes." At 27, Roberson sees the crossroads. Though he didn't play baseball until his teens -- playing mostly basketball -- he felt he was making progress. He hit .307 at Class A Clearwater (2004), .311 at Double-A Reading ('05), and .292 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre ('06). Then came the .195 with the Phillies, and the 0-for-10 this spring. He has been outplayed by Michael Bourn, Karim Garcia and Greg Dobbs, who are also competing for a roster spot. The organization sees Roberson as a fourth outfielder type, and wants a more sound player. With one Minor League option remaining, Roberson get a chance to reassert himself in the eyes of the organization. He was given the day off Monday, and Arbuckle expects him to report on Tuesday. Roberson has 72 hours to decide. If he doesn't report to the Minor League complex, he'll be placed on baseball's restricted list. "Once you get out of Triple-A, you don't want to go back," Roberson said last week. "Once you got that taste of the big leagues, you want to stay there." Good for Bourn: The fact that Bourn still had a corner locker to call his own came as welcome news. The former fourth-round pick who lives in Humble, Texas, remained so on Monday.
"I just have to keep playing," he said. "I made the first cut, so I need to go out and play hard."Bourn is hitting .360 (9-for-25) with 10 runs scored and four stolen bases. The Phils see him as future top-of-the-order hitter. He's already a fine defender. The team quickly noticed a change in his confidence level. "It was just a matter of getting comfortable," Bourn said. "It's a different level, and you can't ignore that. I had to get comfortable with all that goes on. I'm not 100 percent all the way there, but I feel way more comfortable than I did then." Bourn played in 17 games for the Phillies last season, going 1-for-8 and was mostly used as a pinch-hitter. He first call-up lasted a day, July 30, and he went 0-for-1 against Florida. "I was like, 'I'm here for real,'" Bourn said of that day. "I was in la-la land. I was in awe at first, and now I see everybody and am feeling better. I have to get back to the point of just playing the game like when I was a little kid." Brett Myers in the Minors: While non-roster invitee J.A. Happ tasted life on a bigger stage, Brett Myers returned to his roots. Myers worked three innings at the Minor League complex on Monday, allowing one hit and an unearned run. He walked none and struck out six. He said he threw mostly fastballs and dropped in two curveballs. "I'm trying to get extension today," Myers said. "This is the best I've felt in a while." Smith improves: Maybe a new haircut made the difference. Matt Smith, who three days ago was lamenting two straight poor outings that saw his ERA balloon to 30.86, cut his hair and threw two scoreless innings on Monday, lowering his ERA to 16.62. He also struck out four. "I was little bit of a rebel this winter," said Smith, who said he went down two hat sizes after his trim. "It felt better to take my hat off, but I was just clearing the cobwebs out a little bit. I think if this was all about hair, this whole team would have shaved heads." Smith said the key to his important was a mechanical issue pitching coach Rich Dubee noticed. Smith said he knew something was wrong, but couldn't figure out what it was. "I was kind of a lost soul," Smith said. "I'm a timing pitcher, meaning if my mechanics aren't sound, there won't be very good results. I battled myself and forced the issue too much, and that creates a problem. The past two outings were evident of that." Smith's was content with his slider, and now wants to work on making his fastball less erratic. "It's a work in progress," Smith said. "You can throw all the cliches out there. Rome wasn't built in one day, yada, yada. I'm not going to go out there and pop open a bottle of champagne, but it was definitely a positive day. That's all you can ask for at this stage." As for his new shorter hair as opposed to the former bushy look, Smith said he won't go as far as Joe Bisenius, who is bald. "That's not going to happen," Smith said. "We'll just keep it at that. [Bisenius] can pull it off. But myself? There's no Kojak in me." Philling in: Collier, one of the 13 players reassigned, was limited to two at-bats this spring because of a stomach illness. ... The Phillies have played five extra-inning games this spring and are 3-1-1. ... Cole Hamels will play catch on Wednesday, while Jamie Moyer will throw a bullpen session. The team is off on Wednesday, then plays the Blue Jays on Thursday night in Dunedin, Fla. ... On Monday, players were filling out their brackets for the NCAA Tournament. Shane Victorino said he picked the University of Florida to repeat as national champion. ... Roughly 20 scouts were in attendance for Monday's game, and Aaron Rowand played all 10 innings of Philadelphia's 6-6 tie against Houston. They also stayed to the end and watched Bisenius throw. Up next: Righty Adam Eaton is scheduled to make his third outing of the spring, and second Grapefruit League appearance, on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Devil Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. Eaton's previous outing came in a "B" game against the Blue Jays. He went four innings, allowing one run on five hits and four strikeouts.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.