Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pierre leading off

TAMPA, Fla. — When Juan Pierre was summoned to Charlie Manuel's office Thursday afternoon, he had no inclination of his fate. He knew a decision was required in less than 24 hours, so this was it.

Pierre leading off

If I´m ready to go mentally and physically, I like my chances," Juan Pierre said. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
If I'm ready to go mentally and physically, I like my chances," Juan Pierre said. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

TAMPA, Fla. — When Juan Pierre was summoned to Charlie Manuel's office Thursday afternoon, he had no inclination of his fate. He knew a decision was required in less than 24 hours, so this was it.

"I don't think they could have been wrong with any direction they went in," Pierre said, "because everybody was doing so well."

Manuel and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. stood on one side of the room. Pierre sat down.

"They just said, 'You made the team,'" Pierre said. "Once I heard that, I pretty much tuned everything out. I wasn't concerned about whatever role I have. That's not important to me."

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Well, one day later, Pierre is leading off for the Phillies.

The 34-year-old outfielder was fighting for a spot on the bench, but it's also possible he plays a larger role than that. Just listen to Manuel.

"When I do my lineups, there are positions there where I like Pierre," Manuel said. "We talked about it all the time, if you are playing most the time, you have to keep your job.

"Pierre has done a lot of things. He knows all about the game. He's going to stay ready. He works his butt off. He comes to the ballpark early. He wants to play."

It's unclear who Manuel could be referring to when he talks about keeping jobs, but the Phillies face questions at both first base and left field. If the team doesn't like what they've seen from Ty Wigginton, they could put John Mayberry Jr. at first base and stash Pierre in left. Or if Mayberry stumbles, Pierre could just assume his at-bats.

Manuel has promised Mayberry a decent chance, and even invoked the name Ben Francisco earlier in the week. Francisco was the starter in right last year until the end of May when that experiment was abandoned.

Whatever the case, playing time is up for grabs. Pierre played in 158 games for Chicago last year and batted 711 times. His 178 hits were 26 more than any Phillies player in 2011.

Granted, only 23 of those hits were for extra bases. Just 3.2 percent of his plate appearances resulted in an extra-base hit, the lowest for any qualifying hitter in baseball. (The second lowest was Placido Polanco at 3.6 percent.)

Also, Pierre was caught stealing 17 times in 2011, which led the majors. The Phillies, as a team, had 24 caught stealings.

The Phillies cited Pierre's ability against lefties — he's a career .305 hitter against lefties and hit .329 against them in 2011 — as another factor why he won a job.

"Whatever role they want me to be in, I'll be prepared and ready for whenever they call me," Pierre said. "That's what I can control. If I'm ready to go mentally and physically, I like my chances."

Manuel's third-to-last Grapefruit League lineup:

1. Juan Pierre 7
2. Shane Victorino 8
3. Jimmy Rollins 6
4. Jim Thome 0
5. Hunter Pence 9
6. Placido Polanco 5
7. Ty Wigginton 3
8. Carlos Ruiz 2
9. Freddy Galvis 4

Antonio Bastardo will start in a bullpen game. He'll be followed by Jonathan Papelbon, Chad Qualls, Kyle Kendrick and Julio Rodriguez, one of the team's top pitching prospects who was promoted for a day.


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Matt Gelb Inquirer Staff Writer
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