CLEARWATER, Fla. - In the last two seasons, Shane Victorino had tried to bunt for a hit exactly nine times in 1,207 at-bats. So when the Phillies centerfielder attempted to do it in each of his two at-bats in Wednesday's 6-5 Grapefruit League loss to Baltimore, it was easy to tell something was up.
When asked after the game, Victorino only winked. Then he relented. Yes, manager Charlie Manuel had a morning conversation in which he encouraged Victorino to implement more bunting in his game.
"It's a little something in the repertoire," Victorino said.
It used to be a big part of his game. In 2008, Victorino tried to bunt for a single 17 times. He was successful nine times. Since then, he has just two bunt singles.
"That is pretty bad, isn't it?" he said.
Obviously, Victorino has bunted fewer times since 2008 because he has been batting lower in the order. But Manuel doesn't think that matters.
"He needs to bunt enough just to get the corners up," Manuel said. "It's a good way of hitting. It's an ideal way for him to hit."
One of the bunt attempts Wednesday rolled just foul. The other went for a single.
Victorino's on-base percentage was a career-low .327 in 2010, and if more bunting means he is on base more, the Phillies will take it.
"Right now is a perfect time to do it," Victorino said.
The final member of the starting rotation to make his spring debut was Roy Oswalt. In two innings, he allowed one run on two hits with a strikeout and a walk.
The righthander said his priority every spring is refining fastball command. On Wednesday, he described it as "partly cloudy."
It's Oswalt's first spring with the Phillies, and he said he's enjoying the chance to finally get to know some of his teammates.
"When you've got five guys who like being around each other, it makes it even easier," Oswalt said. "We've got great guys on the staff. We mess around with each other all the time. If one guy's got to pitch, he feels like he's missing out what's going on on the bench."
Carlos Ruiz left Phillies camp Wednesday to travel home to Panama for the birth of his second child.
Ruiz's agent, Marc Kligman, reported that both mother and son were doing well after a birth by cesarean section. It is the couple's first child and Ruiz's second. The 32-year-old catcher has an 8-year-old son named Carlos.
Ruiz is expected to return to the team Friday.
Domonic Brown did not play for the first time this spring. He is hitless in 12 at-bats. "I just thought I'd give him a break," Manuel said. "He's going to ride the bus down to Fort Myers, and I'll stick him back in there."
The only regular players making Thursday's 130-mile trip to Fort Myers, Fla., are Victorino, Brown, and Ben Francisco. Cole Hamels will start against Boston.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
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