Jay Paris: Roberts is benched and that’s a good thing

Padres coach Dave Roberts is famous for his left hand.

Now he’s asked to be Padres manager Bud Black’s right-hand man.

“It’s different in that you’re looking at more facets of the game,’’ Roberts said.

Roberts exited the Padres’ first base coach’s box after three years and got cozy with Black. Most visuals of Black during games reveal Roberts on the manager’s hip.

Roberts, of Cardiff, is in his first season as bench coach. That’s one seat over from the hot seat Black occupies.

Maybe some day Roberts will feel those managerial hot britches as well?

“Potentially, I think he does have the ingredients,’’ Black said.

But if being a manager is in Roberts’ future, he’s a coach with a resume that requires reflection.

It was Roberts’ epic stolen base in the 2004 American League Championship Series which catapulted the Red Sox to their first world title since 1918. If Roberts’ left hand doesn’t just sneak past shortstop Derek Jeter’s tag in Game 4, this much is clear: Roberts might actually pay for a meal when visiting Boston.

Instead Roberts remains an icon in Beantown, greeted with backslaps at every turn.

But that doesn’t mean a hill of beans when sifting through his responsibilities on the Padres’ pine.

The base-stealer with the keen first step is being asked to stay a step ahead.

“It is playing through a lot of scenarios so you are not surprised,’’ Roberts said. “One of the many things that Buddy is so good at is he is never caught off guard.’’

Which Roberts helps ensure doesn’t happen.

When the game is being played between the lines, the conversation between Black and Roberts never ceases.

While a fan watches the play unfold, these two — as well as Black’s other coaches — are trying to predict the next play. Or next inning. Or next chain-of-events which so often mean the difference between the music being turned up in a giddy post-game clubhouse or a loss.

Roberts presents what might be; Black decides what to do.

An example is a recent successful squeeze bunt by outfielder Chris Denorfia. Before Denforia laid it down, Black and Roberts batted the idea around.

“That was a great call by Buddy,’’ Roberts said.

But it came about after Roberts added his two cents, with the sense derived from playing 10 years in the majors.

Roberts, a former Rancho Buena Vista three-sport star, is also responsible for the running game and containing rivals on the bases. Add his work with the outfielders and Roberts’ plate is full.

Good thing Roberts never shies from baseball seconds. He’s in constant motion, delivering tips here, encouragement there and does he ever tap the brakes?

“It’s his advice, his mind, following the course of a game and I thought he would be something that would be an advantage for us,’’ said Black, with why he selected Roberts to fill the void when Rick Renteria was named the Cubs manager.  “And some of the intricacies of controlling the running game, as an ex-base stealer, his observations, his communications skills with the players, his pulse of the team, the clubhouse, he’s on top of it.’’

Maybe because he started at the bottom, or at least close to it. Roberts was an undersized, 28th-round pick of the Tigers in 1994, eager to prove his heart and brain were his ticket to the big leagues.

He got there and stole 243 bases, utilizing his understanding of what made him valuable — speed, grit and a short-swing. But all that is eclipsed by that bag he swiped in 2004, which is simply referred to as “The Steal’’ in Boston.

Now Roberts, 41, is asked to contribute while sitting on the bench.

“It’s been a great experience,’’ Roberts said. “As a base coach and outfield coach, your focus is a little bit more narrowed. But since the first day of spring training, Buddy said I needed to start thinking like a manager.’’

Here’s to speculating he’ll be one.

“I try not to get too far ahead of myself but I get asked that a lot,’’ Roberts said. “But for me, I’m just trying to learn every single day. But if that opportunity presents itself, I would be honored.’’

Roberts knows all about being saluted. If ever in Boston with him, you’ll know what we mean.

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.



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