Bench auditions

Pete Orr will play some shortstop in an attempt to show the Phillies that he can fill a utility infielder role. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — And so we've reached the final stretch of the Grapefruit League. This morose Phillies spring has been consumed with questions regarding Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. But now, as life without them, draws closer to reality, the Phillies are faced with the task of actually fielding a 25-man roster.

That will be a challenge. The viable options in camp are limited, and in the wake of Michael Martinez's broken foot, there are spots to be had.

So the drama of this spring is whittled to Pete Orr starting at shortstop against the Pirates, Hector Luna manning left field in a minor-league game, and debating the value of Juan Pierre vs. Scott Podsednik.

Begin with this: The Phillies are actively (desperately) seeking bench help. Just ask the general manager.

"It doesn't take a genius," Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday. "We've lost Chase for a while. We've lost Martinez. We're not stocked full of middle infielders right now."

Orr is that guy currently. (Remember that time when the Phillies opened the season with three utility players? Oh, right. That was last April.) He's playing some shortstop to show the Phillies it's an option. But the Phillies can likely do better than Orr, and they will try to.

A baseball source said Tuesday the Phillies have talked to the Cincinnati Reds about infielder Paul Janish. He's 29 and is a highly rated defender at shortstop. Janish is a career .221 hitter in four major-league seasons.

As it currently stands, the lone righthanded options off the bench are Luis Montanez and Luna. Montanez is 30 and has appeared in all of 129 major-league games. Thirty-six were with the Cubs last season, and he managed a 67 OPS+. Better, we suppose, than the -18 OPS+ (!) he carried for 26 games as an Oriole in 2010.

Luna, obviously, is being considered by the Phillies. Charlie Manuel strolled through the clubhouse Tuesday morning looking for Luna. When he found him, he gave the marching orders.

"I want to see you in left over there," Manuel said.

So Luna, who has played 55 of his 311 career major-league games in the outfield, will play in left field Tuesday at the Carpenter Complex. If he can do that competently, the Phillies have more incentive to keep him because right now, his only positions are first and third base.

But Luna has played all of 27 games in the majors in the previous three seasons. That speaks more than 37 Grapefruit League at-bats that have produced a .777 OPS.

So now you understand why the Phillies will canvass the rest of baseball for better solutions.

It bears watching cuts from other camps as spring winds down. The Phillies may not find a magic bullet there, but given what their current options are, it would be difficult to do worse.

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