Dave Roberts, whose stolen base for Boston in the 2004 playoffs sparked the Red Sox to an elusive World Series championship, is being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Roberts was diagnosed in mid-March. He said the cancer was detected early and he’s undergone two rounds of chemotherapy. The prognosis is “good,” he said.
“I expect to beat this and be fully recovered,” Roberts said during a conference call Monday.
The 37-year-old Roberts, who is working for the San Diego Padres as a special assistant, said he wanted to keep his illness private but knew that his appearance would be changing as he underwent chemotherapy.
Roberts said he began feeling soreness in his neck before spring training, then discovered a lump that began to grow. He continued to work with players during spring training.
“It was a challenge,” he said. “I had to kind of balance it and try not to do too much throughout spring training. But you know what? I wanted to continue with spring training and help this organization any way I could. Also, it was good for me. I didn’t want to take the focus away from the players. I wanted to make it about them.”
Roberts said he informed a handful of players about his illness, and that the organization has been supportive.
“Just going to the ballpark and working with players, or going to a minor league affiliate and seeing the guys stimulates me and keeps me going and keeps me positive,” he said.
He said he has to pace himself, however, and didn’t go to the ballpark the last few days, when the NL West-leading Padres won three of four games against Milwaukee.
“I’m just trying to make sure I don’t do too much in certain periods,” he said.
Roberts played 10 seasons in the majors for Cleveland, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston, San Diego and San Francisco. The speedy outfielder retired after 2008 and worked in television last year for the Red Sox.
“I expect Dave can probably outrun anything,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. “I know we’ve got a lot of people pulling for him here. He probably knows that — everywhere he’s been.”
Roberts was a career .266 hitter with 243 steals. His biggest highlight came in Game 4 of the 2004 AL championship series, where Boston was three outs away from getting swept by the New York Yankees.
With the Red Sox down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth at Fenway Park, Roberts pinch-ran after Kevin Millar drew a leadoff walk from Mariano Rivera. Roberts stole second and scored on Bill Mueller’s single.
Boston won 6-4 in 12 innings, then became the first team in major league history to overcome a 3-0 deficit and win a postseason series. Roberts did not play as the Red Sox swept St. Louis for their first championship since 1918, but will always be beloved in Boston because of that one play.
“It’s saddening to hear that a guy which has such great character as Dave Roberts has was stricken with the illness. I’m optimistic that it’s going to be treated and he’ll live a long and healthy life,” said Boston pitcher Tim Wakefield, Roberts’ teammate in 2004.
“We prayed for him in chapel yesterday. Hopefully, a lot of prayers go his way,” he said.
Yankees outfielder Randy Winn, a former teammate and close friend, has been checking on Roberts.
“It’s just tough in the beginning, getting a diagnosis that you have cancer, it kind of hits you out of nowhere, Winn said.”
AP Sports Writers Bernie Wilson and Jay Cohen and AP freelance writer Ken Powtak contributed to this report.