Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Byrd a candidate for center field

Marlon Byrd came up as a center fielder with the Phillies, but has played sparingly at the position in recent years. But with Ben Revere's struggles, Ryne Sandberg will consider Byrd for his old position.

Byrd a candidate for center field

Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Ben Revere is out of the starting lineup Thursday in Toronto. Tony Gwynn Jr. is in center field.

Manager Ryne Sandberg said he liked Gwynn better against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, as he considers Revere more of a fastball hitter.

But Revere's defense has also been an issue in each of the previous two games. He couldn't get enough on a throw to make a play in the 10th inning on Tuesday, when a sacrifice fly to center won the game for Toronto. On Wednesday, he badly misread a ball that was ruled a triple that ignited Toronto's nine-run seventh inning.

So what's a manager to do? What about Marlon Byrd, whose play in right field has impressed the manager.

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Byrd came up as a center fielder with the Phillies a decade ago. Could he be an option in center again?

"He’s an option for center field, yeah," Sandberg said. "He has experience there. From what I’ve seen, his first-step quickness and his reads are outstanding. And he has an above average arm."

But Byrd played in center field twice last year and has made 42 starts there since the beginning of the 2012 season. He last played regularly in center in 2011 with the Cubs. 

"I’ve talked to him about it," Sandberg said. "And he likes playing center field. In my experience, a lot of guys that have played the corners and center field, like center field the best as far as seeing the ball and getting even better jumps. You can see the angles in front of you. The job that he does in right field, with that, with jumps, positioning and going back, going to the gap and coming in, he’s been outstanding."

When pressed if Byrd was a serious candidate, Sandberg played it cool.

"He’s a possibility," Sandberg said. "He’s a candidate to play center."

 A possible long-term answer this year, though?

"He’s just a candidate," Sandberg said. "I’m not going much further than that, long-term or anything like that. He’s a candidate in center field."

And his review of Revere's play in center thus far?

"I’d say that he’s made some strides, made some improvements," Sandberg said. "He’s worked from Day One on creating better arm strength and better fundamentals, throwing. That’s come a long way. He’s got more carry on his ball. He’s also worked on charging the ball, on the ground, to keep guys from first to third. There’s been an improvement in that area. He continues to work on the fundamentals of getting good jumps on balls. Good reads. ... 

"He’s has shown improvement. And (Juan) Samuel has done a good job with him with a routine of working on those things, footwork, going back on balls, reads, side to side. he’s getting plenty of early work on that. there’s been improvement."

Still, it's worth wondering if, when Darin Ruf returns, if the Phillies wouldn't be better suited with Ruf, Byrd and Domonic Brown as their regular outfield, as long as Byrd could be a competent center fielder.


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Ryan Lawrence Daily News Staff Writer
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