Interesting day at Bright House. The Phillies most effective left handed reliever this spring Jake Diekman was sent down. Pete Orr appears to have won the opening day utility infielder spot. Scott Podsednik made a final push for a roster spot. And Erik Kratz is coming out of nowhere to get into contention as a candidate for the right handed bat off the bench spot.
I woke up this morning and read that Jake Diekman was send down to the AAA camp even though he has been the most effective left handed reliever on the big team this spring. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said the 25 year old needs more work or something like that. In his last 20 innings including games in the Arizona Fall League, the Florida State game and the Grapefruit League this spring, Jake has given up five hits, one earned run and struck out 25. Yea he needs more work in the minors. After Antonio Bastardo’s poor performance Tuesday when he gave up two hits and three runs in two-thirds of an inning to the Pirates, Diekman may have won by default. He may be back before you know it.
Based on Tuesday’s game against the Pirates Cliff Lee is ready to start the season as he rolled through six shutout innings and the Phils did score some runs for a change. Really what was important in Tuesday’s game was watching the borderline players fight to fill for the remaining opening day roster spots. One of them Pete Orr made a nice play at deep short to throw out a runner early in the game and appears to have locked up the utility infielder’s job. In fact he played three infield positions in the game.
To me the real question mark is that the Phillies have no right handed bat on the bench if a left hander starts against them. When facing a lefty starter it appears that John Mayberry Jr. will go to left and Ty Wiggington will go to first as long as Ryan Howard is out. It’s not good to have an all left handed hitting bench in that situation. They sent right handed bat Hector Luna early in the afternoon to play some innings in the outfield in a minor league game. He came running in from left field after he was finished over at the complex and played third base late in this one at Bright House. Luna last appeared in the major leagues with the Marlins in 2010 and hit just .138 in 29 at bats but he seems to have a shot at the right handed bat off the bench spot because he can play many positions and has some pop. Also right handed hitting free agent outfielder Luis Montanez has a chance but he has little speed and did not show much pop at AAA last season. He has been fading fast at the plate in recent games after a quick start in early spring training games.
My candidate for the right handed bat off the bench spot on the roster would got to catcher Erik Kratz. So far in spring training games Kratz is hitting .429 over all. In today’s game he came in against a left handed pitcher and hit a hard ground ball by the first baseman for a pinch hit single. For the spring Kratz is 4 for 5 with a home run as a pinch hitter. Of course the problem is Kratz plays only one position and Brian Schneider is entrenched as the back up catcher to Carlos Ruiz. The Phillies did briefly for a week or two carry three catchers back in 2009. They gave Chris Coste a short trial as the right handed bat off the bench but soon moved him to Houston.
The other big story line is the battle for a bench job between left handed hitters Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik for a role as a base stealer, bunter and utility outfielder. Both have the same skill set but Pods has had an outstanding spring training going 5 for 5 in stealing bases and hitting well over .300 all spring. Pierre is only 2 for 5 in stealing, has struggled in a game we watched trying to bunt and generally seems near the end of his major league career. But Charlie likes him so who knows what they will do. To me the solution is to send Laynce Nix to AAA, release Pierre and keep Podsednik but they have invested in Nix so that is unlikely to happen. Pods won the game against the Pirates 5-4 in dramatic fashion by hitting a walk off home run. On most teams that would have insure a spot for him on the opening day roster. To bad he does not hit right handed.
With only a few more game remaining before the start of the regular season against these very same Pirates a few final roster spots still seems in a state of flux. Who will make the opening day roster and what roles they will play are still being debated in the Phillies Front Office. We do know however that Pete Orr, Erik Kratz, and Scott Podsednik had a very good day at the right time to give them a chance to make a case to be included on the opening day 25 man roster. And most of all even if it was by default Jake Diekman could smile after this game after waking up Tuesday morning to being sent down to the minor league camp. The way the other lefties in the bullpen pitched in their last outings, Jake’s cellphone could be ringing soon.