Dave Roberts is being treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Roberts, whose stolen base for Boston in the 2004 playoffs sparked the Red Sox to an elusive World Series championship, was diagnosed in mid-March and he says the cancer was detected early. He said the prognosis is "good." He has undergone two rounds of chemotherapy so far.
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.
"I expect to beat this and be fully recovered," Roberts said during a conference call Monday.
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 has not gone 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.
The former outfielder went to the Padres the year after the Boston miracle, playing for two seasons and 234 games before moving on to the Giants to finish his career.
Roberts played 10 seasons in the majors for Cleveland, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston, San Diego and San Francisco. The speedy outfielder retired after the 2008 season with the Giants, then worked in television last year for the Red Sox.
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 entered as a pinch-runner after Kevin Millar drew a leadoff walk from Mariano Rivera. Roberts stole second on the first pitch and later scored the tying run on a single by Bill Mueller.
The Red Sox went on to win 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 was on the World Series roster, but did not play as Boston swept St. Louis for its first championship since 1918.
In fact, Roberts did not get to bat at all in the 2004 postseason. Yet his steal was credited as spurring the Red Sox toward their title.