Countdown to Clearwater: Competition in the outfield
The Phillies begin spring training Sunday in Clearwater, Fla. In the final days before camp begins, we take a daily look at some of the issues the team will encounter in camp.Monday – Chase UtleyTuesday – Ryan Howard and first baseWednesday – BullpenThursday – Starting rotationFriday – Cole HamelsSaturday – OffenseSunday – Outfield
Shane Victorino is set in centerfield.
Hunter Pence is the man in right.
As spring training begins, left field is an area of some uncertainty.
The job appears to be John Mayberry Jr.’s to lose. At least the bulk of it. Left-handed hitting Laynce Nix could cut into Mayberry’s at-bats, especially against right-handed pitching. On paper, Nix, who signed a two-year contract with the Phillies in December, appears to be the club’s fourth outfielder. So, who’s the fifth guy? That figures to be one of the most intriguing dramas in camp and the Phillies are well-stocked with candidates.
Domonic Brown will get a look at the position, but all indications are that the Phillies will have him start the season at Triple-A, where he could play every day, get regular at-bats and continue to develop in a low-key environment. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has admitted that Brown was rushed to the majors the last two seasons, but he remains high on the 24-year-old’s potential.
In the end, non-roster veterans Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik are expected to be the lead candidates for the fifth outfielder’s job.
“They’ll be battling,” Amaro said.
Pierre and Podsednik both have lengthy major-league resumes and both have the speed the Phillies have been looking to add to their bench. Pierre and Podsednik will both get ample at-bats and playing time in leftfield in camp and it’s not out of the question that one of them could eventually push for time as the fourth outfielder. Hey, it’s not out of the question one of them would eventually push Mayberry for time. Mayberry hit .299 with 10 homers, 30 RBIs and a .931 OPS in the second half of last season. Though team officials are eager to see what he can do with more playing time, he is far from proven.
Last year, the Phillies came into camp with some uncertainty in right field. Ben Francisco won the job and Brown eventually got time there, but in the end club management sought an upgrade and landed Pence at the trade deadline. It’s possible that the left field situation could play out similarly, with club officials looking to make a deal down the road if someone doesn’t take hold of the job.
Pierre and Podsednik are both in camp early.
“I feel like a rookie all over again,” the 34-year-old Pierre said Sunday. “I’m excited to get going. My whole career, even when I’ve had long-term contracts, I’ve had to battle for a position, so this is nothing new.”E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org