The P Word

John Mayberry has seen his playing time increase over the past month. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)

Even if Charlie Manuel was forced to give a public reading of Charlie Sheen's filmography, he might still find a way to avoid mentioning the word "platoon."

So it should come as no surprise that he downplayed talk of such a situation in left field prior to last night's game, when John Mayberry Jr. started for the 11th time in 12 games against a lefty starter.

"It's just a way of getting Mayberry some playing time," Manuel said.

Truth be told, the significance of the "platoon" label is often overblown. Last night's match-up against Marlins rookie Brad Hand was just the second time in seven games that the Phillies faced a lefty starter. Fewer than 30 percent of their games this season have come against a southpaw (they entered last night with a 27-9 record on those occasions).

Since Mayberry was recalled from the minors on July 5, 14 of his 25 starts have come against righthanders. Ibanez, meanwhile, has started 16 of the Phillies' 27 games since the start of August, including a three-game stretch in which he was sideilned with a sore groin.

Still, Manuel clearly wants give Mayberry an opportunity to play on a more regular basis. The 27-year-old outfielder/first baseman entered last night hitting .298 with a .342 on base percentage and nine home runs since he re-joined the team. Last night was his 11th start in the Phillies' last 14 games, the most extensive action he has seen since starting eight straight games in center field when Shane Victorino was on the disabled list in early July. In the 10 starts leading into last night, he was 12-for-37 (.324) with three home runs, a double, a triple, five walks and four strikeouts. During the eight-game stretch in July, Mayberry went 10-for-35 (.286) with two home runs, six doubles, one walk and six strikeouts.

Ibanez entered last night hitting .240/.288/.416 with 17 home runs in 445 at-bats. Since his batting average bottomed out at .156 on May 1, he is hitting .263/.301/.470 with 16 home runs. But his struggles in August combined with a .198 batting average against lefties leaves the left field situation far from settled.

Expect Ibanez and Mayberry to both see plenty of opportunities between now and the end of the regular season. Just don't call it a platoon.

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