Charlie Manuel strongly hinted before tonight’s game that Ben Francisco will be the Phillies regular rightfielder for the foreseeable future and that Jose Contreras is likely to be the closer when the regular season opens.
Francisco isn’t a surprise, but that the manager is leaning toward the 39-year-old Contreras over Madson, who’s been groomed for the spot for several years now, was somewhat more unexpected.
The issue came up because titular closer Brad Lidge, who had an MRI, has been bothered by biceps tendinitis and discomfort behind his shoulder, will open the season on the disabled list (more below).
“Right now, with the way it looks, here lately we’ve been using Contreras,” Manuel said. “Of course, Madson is still there. At the same time, to start the season, it looks like it might be Contreras. I don’t know yet. But I’d say right now, if I had to pick somebody tonight, it would probably be Conteras.”
After rookie Dominic Brown fractured the hook of the hamate bone in his right wrist early in the Grapefruit League season, the assumption was that Francisco would be the starter barring a late trade. John Mayberry Jr., however, made a strong push and tied Ryan Howard for the team lead in Florida home runs with five.
“When we start the season, Francisco’s going to get a chance to play,” Manuel said firmly. “In our organization, people think he can hit. I think he can hit, too. He’s going to get a chance to play.
“I’ve heard people say he got to play in Cleveland. He didn’t get no 350, 450 at bats or something like that. He’s never done that. So this is a chance for him to get to play. Starting off, he’s going to get a good chance to play, what you call a bona fide chance.”
Going into play tonight Francisco is hitting .385 with 4 homers and 13 RBI this spring.
Lidge update: The MRI exam of closer Brad Lidge’s sore right shoulder earlier today showed a posterior rotator cuff sprain, according to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
“It’s an issue,” Amaro said. “Obviously losing your closer for a significant period of time is not something we were looking forward to. But we know there was something going on in there. On the brighter side of things, it’s not something that needs to be surgically repaired. So that’s a good sign, at least for now.”
Lidge will not throw for three to six weeks.
“Hopefully after another three weeks, if he’s feeling okay, he’ll start throwing and then we’ll progress him from there,” Amaro added. “We’re glad it’s not a labrum. That’s on the bright side of things. But it’s still significant.”
Manager Charlie Manuel had previously indicated that he was leaning toward using 39-year-old righthander Jose Contreras to close, at least to satrt the season, leaving Ryn Madson in the set-up role.
Also, the Phillies have removed Matt Rizzotti from the 40-man roster. He has been outrighted to the minors.
Download our NEW iPhone/Android app for easy access to all of our Phillies coverage, plus app-exclusive videos and analysis. Get it here.