Monday, August 31, 2015

On Michael Martinez

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ever since the Phillies traded away fan favorite Wilson Valdez, there has been a general cloud of angst regarding the utility infielder position. Mostly, it concerns Michael Martinez, the Rule 5 pick who spent all of 2011 on the Phillies.

On Michael Martinez

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Michael Martinez made two errors Sunday against the Yankees. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Michael Martinez made two errors Sunday against the Yankees. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ever since the Phillies traded away fan favorite Wilson Valdez, there has been a general cloud of angst regarding the utility infielder position. Mostly, it concerns Michael Martinez, the Rule 5 pick who spent all of 2011 on the Phillies.

Then Martinez made two errors and botched another ball Sunday against the Yankees and the floodgates opened.

First, the most imperative point: We are two games into spring training. Martinez is viewed as an above-average defender at three positions (2B, SS, 3B) and the Phillies quite like him.

"He had a rough day," Charlie Manuel said. "But it's only the second game we've played. At the same time, you'd like to catch those balls.

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"Michael did a good job defensively for us last season. One off day doesn't mean he can't play defense."

Secondly, the utility infielder position is not paramount. Yes, Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez combined for 534 plate appearances in 2011. Many of those were at second and third base for Chase Utley and Placido Polanco. 

That's why the Phillies acquired Ty Wigginton for insurance. Wigginton can play second and third. Previously, the Phillies used Valdez and Martinez because they valued defense when replacing their injured infielders. Now? They want offense. Wigginton can fill that role while Martinez is the defensive option on the bench. Now, instead of two light-hitting backup infielders, the Phillies have diversified options.

Having both Valdez and Martinez was superfulous. But when they traded Valdez, they did not decide Martinez was the guy. Is he the favorite? Certainly. Could he lose the job this spring? Absolutely.

Freddy Galvis has begun work at second and third base, as detailed in Monday's story. If the Phillies were to suffer a long-term injury at shortstop, it's likely Galvis — not Martinez — would be the guy to replace Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies would prefer that Galvis spend the year getting 600 or so at-bats at triple-A Lehigh Valley to foster his development. His path to the majors is currently as a utility player, but that is more likely for 2013 than 2012.

And don't sleep on Kevin Frandsen. He's a guy who hit .303 at triple A in 2011 with a .768 OPS. He can play a little shortstop, and that is important to demonstrate if he is to unseat Martinez for the job.

Frandsen is the starter at second Monday as the Yankees come to Clearwater again. Placido Polanco makes his spring debut.

1. Jimmy Rollins 6
2. Placido Polanco 5
3. Shane Victorino 8
4. Jim Thome 0
5. Hunter Pence 9
6. Ty Wigginton 5
7. Domonic Brown 7
8. Brian Schneider 2
9. Kevin Frandsen 4
Joe Blanton 1

In relief: Scott Elarton, Austin Hyatt, Brian Sanches and David Herndon.


Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.

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