THE PHILLIES signed eight players to minor league contracts with invitations to major league spring training as nonroster players, the team announced yesterday.
Several of the signings have been previously reported, including lefthander Pat Misch, infielder Pete Orr, catcher Tuff Gosewisch and outfielder Scott Podsednik.
Here is a closer look at five of the signings:
1 Brian Sanches
The 33-year-old righthander spent the first 2 years of his major league career with the Phillies, leaving the organization after 2007 to sign with the Nationals, where he played in 2008 before spending the next three seasons with the Marlins. He should have a good opportunity to compete for a roster spot, as the Phillies' bullpen is largely unsettled after Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Jose Contreras and Mike Stutes. Sanches has put up solid numbers while averaging 61 innings over the last three seasons - 2.92 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 0.9 HR/9 - but his fastball velocity has dropped steadily and last season sat at 87-88 mph. Still, he has a decent strikeout pitch in his splitter and mixes in a slider. Although he doesn't project as anything more than a low-leverage, front-of-the-bullpen guy, he could give manager Charlie Manuel another batter-by-batter matchup option. Last season, he held righties to a .198 /.271/.328 line with 34 strikeouts and 11 walks in 116 at-bats, while struggling mightily against lefties (.257/.393/.487). At the very least, he'll give the Phils some righty depth at Triple A that they did not have last season.
2 Raul Valdes
The 34-year-old appeared in seven games in September for the Yankees, striking out eight and walking two while surrendering eight hits and two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. But don't expect too much out of him as a potential lefty specialist: In 125 big-league plate appearances, lefties have hit .322/.371/.565 with four homers against him. The Cuba native is a soft-tossing lefty who relies heavily on a slider. Still, he has some big-league experience and should provide depth at Triple A.
3 Scott Elarton
He's one of the more recognizeable names on the list, but he is a reclamation project in every sense of the word. A former 17-game winner with Houston in 2000, Elarton hasn't pitched in the bigs since '08. In fact, he has not pitched professionally since 2010, when he posted an 8.24 ERA in 16 appearances for the White Sox' Triple A affiliate. No harm in taking a flier on the guy.
4 Kevin Frandsen
A positive test for Adderall (amphetamine used to treat ADHD) derailed what had been a solid season at Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. The veteran infielder, who will be 30 next May, finished the year hitting .303/.356/.412 with 10 steals and four homers in 322 plate appearances for the IronPigs, despite the 50-game suspension for the positive test. His natural position is second base, but he can also play shortstop and third.
5 Scott Podsednik
Foot issues sidelined him for most of last season. In 2010, he hit .297/.342/.382 with 35 steals for the Royals and Dodgers. He was an All-Star in 2005, when the White Sox won the World Series. Healthy, he could compete for a spot on the bench, especially if the Phillies do not end up signing another lefthanded bat. At this point in his career, he is probably more of a leftfielder, but he has spent plenty of time in center as well.
All things considered, it looks to be a solid crop of veteran signings who should provide the Phillies with some good, experienced depth at Triple A. Keep in mind that this is only the first round of minor league free agents.
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's
blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese.