Charlie Manuel is playing coy.
The Phillies face Tampa Bay Rays lefthander Scott Kazmir tomorrow tonight in Game 1 of the World Series at Tropicana Field, which means Manuel needs a designated hitter.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I mean, really, whether I’ve decided or haven’t decided … I never know. I might look and change it right at the last minute. You never know. Seriously.”
But Manuel did say he is more inclined to see a righthanded hitter against the lefthanded Kazmir, and lefthanded hitters against Tampa Bay’s righthanded starters. That said, let’s look at the candidates for Game 1:
- Chris Coste. Coste makes the most sense, except he is the backup catcher to Carlos Ruiz. If something happens to Ruiz the Phillies would lose their DH by putting Coste behind the plate. Of course, the odds of losing Ruiz or Coste due to injury might not be enough to keep Manuel from putting him in the lineup.
- Eric Bruntlett. He hit just .217 in the season and has been Pat Burrell’s primary replacement in left field, so it might not make much sense. Because if the Phillies want Bruntlett to replace Burrell in left field later, they would lose their DH, meaning the pitcher would then have to hit in Burrell’s spot.
- So Taguchi. Manuel buried Taguchi deep on his bench this season and Taguchi has resurfaced only rarely. But here’s something to consider: Taguchi hit a respectable .289 in his 12 starts this season, compared to .152 coming off the bench. It might not be totally insane to see Taguchi hit ninth.
- Burrell. It might make sense to DH Burrell and have Bruntlett play in left field, except Burrell is a career .153 hitter as a designated hitter. Burrell, for his defensive shortcomings, feels more comfortable playing nine innings than sitting on the bench and getting four at-bats. Knowing how tough it can be to score runs in the postseason, Manuel might want to keep Burrell’s head in the game by having him play left field.
- Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs or Geoff Jenkins. Manuel could throw out the textbook at throw Dobbs or Stairs or Jenkins out there, but he indicated yesterday he won't do that.
Oh, that Kelly Ripa. Good thing Kosuke Fukudome doesn't play for the Phillies.