A leadoff guy with speed on the basepaths and range in center field certainly sounds like someone who could deliver a spark, and that's Roberts' job description right there.
"That's the reason I was brought in here anyway," Roberts said on Monday. "That's the way I play the game, and that's the reason [general manager Kevin Towers] made the move to get me here in the offseason."
At last, the man advertised as the spark for the top of the lineup made his debut with his hometown team on Monday night.
Roberts, the 32-year-old graduate of nearby Rancho Buena Vista High, was making his first appearance in a Padres uniform about two weeks later than he would have liked, but perhaps just in time. With the offense scuffling through their three-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, Roberts' return from a left groin strain is just what Bochy needs.
Writing Roberts' name at the top of the lineup is something Bochy had been waiting to do since Game 1 of the 2005 season.
"Sure, I'm glad to have Roberts back," Bochy said. "We need some speed."
And Roberts feels like he can deliver it now. After suffering the injury on March 12 and taking a week off, Roberts tried to gradually get back into action in Spring Training. But when he couldn't go full speed heading toward Opening Day, he took a step back and let the injury heal further, leading to the outfielder starting the season on the disabled list.
"I'm 100-percent ready to go," Roberts said. "That's the first time I've been able to say that in a long time."
Roberts went 2-for-10 in his rehab assignment, including going 0-for-4 with a walk on Sunday. The main goal, Roberts said, was to run as much as possible and make sure that going 100 percent didn't bring the pain back to the injured area.
"He played and ran his rear end off at Lake Elsinore," trainer Todd Hutcheson said. "Physically, he checks out."
Said Roberts: "I was a little rusty but I went there for a purpose. I had to test some things, see some pitches, make sure I hit the ball on the ground as much as possible so I could run down the baseline."
Bochy said that as frustrating as the three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium was and as much as the players need to put it behind them, carrying a little bit of anger over it isn't such a bad idea.
"Hopefully, when you get beat on, you get mad," Bochy said. "But the last thing we want to do is have anybody get down or get your confidence shaken because you have a rough series. That was as rough a series as we've had in a long time. You've got to come back and strap it on. You've got to do something about it."
Xavier Nady, who had been the regular center fielder with Roberts on the DL, was not in the starting lineup on Monday, in part due to a sore throwing elbow that flared up in Saturday's game. Hutcheson and Bochy both said that Nady could have played, but the Padres opted to give him a rest.
Although he's been playing exclusively in the outfield, Nady will be taking some ground balls at third now, refreshing the learning process he went through at the position this spring.
With the arrival of Roberts, Khalil Greene was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list with his fractured right ring finger. The X-rays on the finger confirmed what the fluoroscope showed on Saturday, and the diagnosis remains that Greene will be out for about a month. Greene was taking ground balls using only his glove hand before Monday's game.
As for Eric Young's dislocated right shoulder, Hutcheson said that much more will be known once Young's splint is removed. The splint is scheduled to remain on until three weeks after the injury, which means about the end of the month.
"We've got to find out if he can function without surgery," Hutcheson said. "We're relying on his body to take care of everything right now."
Right-hander Brian Lawrence will take the mound on Tuesday night trying to put his rough outing in Game 2 of Wednesday's doubleheader behind him. Lawrence, who allowed seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Cubs, will be matched against Giants right-hander Jerome Williams in the capper to the two-game series.