CLEARWATER, Fla. — While reporting on the story that appears in Thursday's Inquirer about Charlie Manuel's desire for situational ball, the manager had some interesting insight into the decision that lies ahead regarding the fifth outfielder job.
One of Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik is a near lock to make the team out of camp. Both have earned significant playing time this spring and figure to play regularly in the next nine days. Pierre is 9 for 32 (.281) at the plate and 2 for 4 in stolen bases. Podsednik is 14 for 36 (.389) and 5 for 5 in steals. Five of Podsednik's hits are doubles; Pierre has no extra-base hits.
It's obvious Podsednik has had the better spring. But, as mentioned in this space before, Pierre has an edge because Podsednik can be sent to the minors.
Pierre can ask for his release March 30 if he's not added to the roster, under guidelines for certain free agents granted in the new collective bargaining agreement. If the Phillies want to send him to the minors, he must accept the assignment and receives a $100,000 retention bonus for going down. Podsednik cannot ask for his release until June 1.
Manuel had good things to say about Podsednik.
"About the last 10 days, he's been playing a lot better," Manuel said. "He got off to a slow start in camp. He shows you now he can play good in the outfield. He can run."
Then, unprompted, Manuel presented the case for taking Pierre instead.
"You have to remember sometimes, like Juan Pierre, his season last year has to stand for something," Manuel said. "He shows you he scored 80 runs. There are such things as people getting off to a slow start in the spring. You have to wager that to a certain degree."
Grapefruit League stats will have only so much effect on the decision. Pierre (rightly or wrongly) batted 711 times for a major-league team in 2011. Podsednik played in 34 minor-league games from Las Vegas to Dunedin to Lehigh Valley.
Basically, what Manuel is saying, is Pierre deserves a longer look that four weeks of spring games. We'll see if that's the ultimate decision.
The Phillies are looking for infield help, this we know. Whether they acquire an everyday option to replace Chase Utley or a utility player to replace Michael Martinez is still in question. The guess here is the Phillies test the market now and wait closer to opening day to see who is released from other camps.
If they go the utility route, here are four names to store away: Omar Vizquel, Alex Cora, Cesar Izturis and Jose Lopez. All four of those infielders are in the same situation as Pierre, explained above. So teams could be willing to release them instead of paying to send them to the minors.
Vizquel is a player the Phillies inquired about this winter as a reserve plan should Jimmy Rollins have signed elsewhere. Lopez is a name that has often come up during Phillies trade talks in previous seasons; he has some admirers in the front office.
Another situation to watch is that in San Francisco, where Ryan Theriot could become available March 29.
Again, we're not talking about significant upgrades. But to fill the utility role for a bargain price, the Phillies could do worse.
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.