CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Chris Coste is trying to take things slowly, which hasn't been easy.

He's fighting for a job.

Coste, 36, has been hampered this spring with tightness in his right hamstring. The injury has held him to just one Grapefruit League at-bat, which isn't ideal, because he is competing with Ronny Paulino, 27, to be the Phillies' backup catcher.

"I'd rather miss the first week of games and play the last 3 1/2 weeks than try to fight through it and miss the last two weeks," Coste said. "That not only could cost me being on the team, but at my age, my career, possibly."

Coste had the same injury during Spring Training in 2007, but he tried to play through it and made the injury worse.

He opened the 2007 season on the disabled list, but was optioned to Triple-A Ottawa when he became healthy enough to play. He joined Philadelphia that May when Ryan Howard went on the disabled list, but the Phils optioned him to Double-A Reading once Howard came back so he could catch. Only when catcher Rod Barajas continued to struggle did the Phillies recall Coste on June 29. He remained with the club the rest of the season.

Coste could see a similar situation developing had he tried to play through the injury this spring.

Coste, a career .288 hitter, hit .263 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs last season. Paulino hit .212 last season with the Pirates, but is a career .278 hitter.

"I'm hoping for three more years," Coste said. "For me to have a career-ending injury, it would have to be pretty significant. But as far as big league career-ending, it could be a situation where at my age even some pretty good players have an injury and get lost in the shuffle and never get back. I was fortunate to get back in 2007."

The Marlins expressed interest in Coste over the winter, although it is uncertain if they remain interested.

A healthy Coste would help his value not only with the Phillies, but elsewhere, too.

"As interesting as it is to be involved in trade talks, I certainly don't want to be traded," he said. "But I'd rather be traded than go to the Minor Leagues, clearly. The stars were aligned for me to be here in Philly. It would be odd to go anywhere else, because it has been such a perfect fit."