I feel like the last five blog posts and last five stories that have appeared under my name have all been focused on Luis Castillo. That's probably because it's true. So let's forget the newest Phillies for awhile, relegating our differing perspectives on the move to other more pertinent threads.
In the meantime, some things you might have missed during Second Base Watch: '11.
1) David Herndon's slider was pretty damn impressive yesterday afternoon during his two-inning appearance in the Phillies' 4-1 loss to the Rays.
"I don't know what he did with it," said Brian Schneider, who caught Herndon yesterday, "but it looks a lot better."
Herndon hasn't done anything physically different with the pitch, which both he and the Phillies believe he needs to develop to off-set the heavy sinker that convinced the organization to select him in the Rule 5 draft in December of 2009 and keep him around all last season.
The difference has been mostly mental, the attitude, for lack of a better word, he takes when delivering the pitch to home. The difference is huge. The pitch has more depth, more bite and is resulting in far more swings-and-misses than he has ever gotten before. Herndon is also happy with the progress he has made on his change-up, a pitch he thinks will develop into a weapon for him. But let's get back to the slider and sinker. Yesterday, the right-handed Herndon rang up to left-handed Rays on nasty front-door sinkers that started at the batter's hip before fading back over the inside corner of the plate. He also threw several impressive sliders, at least one for a called strike.
Will all of this result in a big league roster spot? It's a very, very interesting question, one that I'm sure will prompt a healthy debate in the Phillies organizational meetings over the next week.
Ask yourself this: Are the Phillies a better big league team if Herndon is in the bullpen as the long man and Kyle Kendrick is starting in the minor leagues in case he is needed? Or are they a better big league team if Herndon is in the minors continuing to refine his secondary pitches and Kendrick is serving as the long man out of the bullpen?
My gut says Kendrick has a spot locked up. Still, it's interesting to think about.
2) At one point, I thought I had an idea what way the Phillies would go with the construction of their bench. Now, I'm at a loss. Two guys who have really impressed as of late: Ross Gload, who already has a spot locked up, and Pete Orr. Gload has been making solid contact all spring, just like he did all last season. This guy will get some at-bats in right field against righties. Particularly at home, where the Citizens Bank Park outfield is a lot easier to manage than some of the more wide open spaces in the National League.
Orr, meanwhile, has four triples this spring. He's a lot faster on the basepaths than I anticpated. He's also been hitting the ball very well.
If you held a gun to my head -- please don't, by the way -- here would be my bench to start the season: Gload, Schneider, Valdez, John Mayberry Jr., Delwyn Young. If the Phillies want to try to find a way to keep Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez around, they can start Antonio Bastardo in the minors and go with 11 pitchers. Obviously, this is all assuming they keep Luis Castillo around, which at this point I think they will.
Orr and Josh Barfield would start the season in the minors, with the Phillies continually re-evaluating their situation.
Why the bench the way it is? Mayberry is the only player who can really give you any kind of pop from the right side. Keep in mind they'll like be facing lefties J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez in the first series of the season. Young gives you flexibility, both because he is a switch-hitter and because he can play the outfield or, in a pinch, second base. Plus, he has more pop than any of the other utility guys in camp (seven HRs in 191 career ABs against lefties, 14 total HRs in 545 ABs over the last two seasons). He is also a career .270 pinch-hitter.
3) Placido Polanco should play tomorrow. Chase Utley will start the season on the DL. More here.
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