In today's paper, we took a look at one piece of work that hitting coach Greg Gross has performed with Domonic Brown this offseason. I didn't delve much into the actual competition for right field, mostly because we'll have plenty of time over the next couple months to cover that.
One of the more interesting questions is whether the Phillies would be open to platooning Brown with someone like the right-hand hitting Ben Francisco.
Last year, the Phillies faced a right-handed starter in 114 games and a left-handed starter in 48 games. Jayson Werth, who started 131 games in right field and 19 in center, logged 453 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. In 2008, Werth and the left-handed hitting Geoff Jenkins both logged at least 320 plate appearances while sharing time.
So even if Brown played mostly against right-handed pitching, he would still be in position to log 400-plus plate appearances. And there would still be an opportunity to get Ben Francisco a healthy number of at-bats, especially if he gives Raul Ibanez an occasional rest in left.
When I talked to Ruben Amaro Jr. yesterday, he didn't rule out a platoon role for Brown.
"I guess it depends on what's best for the club and what's best for him," he said. "Charlie's worked guys into that situation before."
In Manuel's first year as a hitting coach with Cleveland, a 23-year-old Jim Thome started the season playing primarily against right-handed starters at third base (he didn't move to first base until his fourth full season in the majors).
Last June, I wrote a story about the Phillies' plan for handling Brown. This was a couple weeks before his call-up to Triple-A, and a month-and-a-half before his call-up to the majors.
Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper, a veteran personnel man, shared his philosophy on how to handle a top prospect.
"I know when you have a very good prospect like that, and you make that decision, you stick with it," Looper said. "You put them out there every day, even if they are hitting .100."
To back up his point, Looper pointed to the White Sox and their experience with Robin Ventura. In September 1989, Ventura hit .178 in 16 games, then began the 1990 season hitting .196 with a .512 OPS and three home runs in his first 50 games. Chicago stuck with Ventura. He hit .275 with a meager .666 OPS in the final four months of the year, and then finally took off the following season.
The White Sox, however, finished seventh in 1990.
The Phillies are expected to contend for the World Series.
Should make for an interesting spring.