Charlie Manuel shed some light on his decision-making process for today's line-up, as well as some of the things he will be monitoring as we move forward. As most of you probably know already, Manuel has Jayson Werth hitting second tonight and Shane Victorino hitting sixth. That leaves the Phillies with three straight lefties in the middle of their order -- Chase Utley hitting third, Ryan Howard hitting fourth and Raul Ibanez hitting fifth. Although the Phillies will face three righties in their first three games of the season, the Braves' closer, Mike Gonzalez, is a lefty.
Manuel said his biggest reason for batting Werth second and Victorino sixth was that he feels Werth is closer to regular season form than Victorino, who did not get as many at-bats as he had hoped in the World Baseball Classic.
"I liked Victorino hitting sixth," Manuel said. "He didn't get a lot of at-bats in spring training and he hasn't been swinging real good. If he gets on, it gives him a better chance to run and play some action baseball down toward the end of our line-up. Werth's had a good spring. He hit second quite a bit last year too."
Manuel said he is concerned about the potential for a lefty reliever to face the Phillies' three lefty power hitters in a row.
"It's something that we definitely want to see, to try," Manuel said. "They are going to throw three righty starters at us, but at the same time, their closer is a lefty. We'll get a good look at that early in the season and see how it goes and make adjustments off that.
"I'm concerned about the fact that they can bring a lefty in and go down through our 3,4,5 guys, but Ibanez hit close to .300 last year, the last two years he's been consistent, against lefties, and Howard hits production wise of lefties good. And Utley last year was tearing lefties up until he started having his hip problems."
Some other key points:
*Manuel said he will closely monitor Chase Utley, though there are no set guidelines for how much he will be used.
*Pedro Feliz said before the game he doesn't expect to be limited in any way. But Manuel said he is concerned about how Utley's hip and Feliz's back will react to the cold weather.
*Manuel said he is more concerned about players like Victorino and Feliz not getting enough spring at-bats than he is with Utley.
"I think Utley is definitely different from Victorino," Manuel said. "I think he's different from probably Feliz, I think he's different from anybody out there. I think Utley has a basic set-up, a basic load, a basic stride. He is a balanced, timing and rhythm hitter. Everything he does is very basic and he can correct his hitting before some of those other guys. That's why I think he might step right in there tonight and take off and get some hits."