In a pinch, Wigginton's the guy for Phillies

Wigginton is getting a lot of at-bats as a fill-in for Phils.

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In 10 major-league seasons, Ty Wigginton has played six different positions for six different teams. (David Maiaietti/Staff file photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. - No one ever becomes a utility player on purpose, and Ty Wigginton has no idea how a balding 6-foot, 230-pounder turned into that guy.

"It just kind of happened," Wigginton said.

In 2007, Wigginton was the starting first baseman for Tampa Bay. They moved B.J. Upton to the outfield and Wigginton became the everyday second baseman. In 2008, he started at third base for Houston until Carlos Lee broke his finger. Then Wigginton was the team's leftfielder.

In 10 major-league seasons, Wigginton has played six different positions for six different teams.

"Wherever you want me to go on the field," Wigginton said, "I'm more than willing to figure it out and learn how to play it."

The Phillies will not ask Wigginton to learn anything new, but there is certainly playing time to be had for the 34-year-old San Diegan coming off a forgettable season.

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He is likely to line up with the Phillies' starters April 5 in Pittsburgh as the replacement for Ryan Howard at first base. And the longer Howard is out, the more time for Wigginton.

Plus, should Placido Polanco require a day of rest or suffer another injury, Wigginton is probably the guy. And if in a pinch the Phillies need second baseman, well, Wigginton can play there too.

"I'm extremely excited about it," Wigginton said. "The way I look at all that is, go out and produce and more at-bats will come your way."

Wigginton started at third in Wednesday's 11-7 loss to Minnesota at Hammond Stadium. He's batting .216 (11 for 51) this spring with four doubles. The Phillies acquired him this winter in a trade with Colorado for a player to be named later or cash. The Rockies will pay half of his $4 million 2012 salary.

"He's got a quick bat," Charlie Manuel said. "Right now he's not as sharp as he wants to be. He's a better hitter than that because I've seen him hit better than that."

In 2011, Wigginton hit .242, a career low. He's posted on-base percentages of .314, .312 and .315 in the last three seasons, and those represent his three worst.

Wigginton missed 16 days in 2011 with an oblique strain. He implied the injury affected him for longer than that.

"I'd say there was some disappointment," Wigginton said of last year. "At the same time, it's baseball. You play through a lot of nagging things, and I got through it and it's a new year."

When asked to elaborate, Wigginton declined. "I'm not one that's going to sit here and talk about the past," he said. "It's over with. Whole new uniform, whole new situation."

The Phillies did not trade for Wigginton's defense, but his versatility does help. Last season, the team carried two defensive-minded utility men in Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez. Wigginton allows them to eliminate that redundancy.

Initially, Wigginton was a mess in the field this spring. Sam Perlozzo, the team's first-base coach and infield coordinator, said Wigginton was dealing with a minor injury to his midsection at the onset of play and that affected his defense. But Perlozzo has seen marked improvement as March winds down.

"He's come around," Perlozzo said. "He's working at it."

Manuel said improvement will come with more chances, and there should be no shortage of those at least in April for Wigginton.

"I guess I haven't really thought about it, to be totally honest," Wigginton said. "During spring training you're just trying to do everything you can to get your swing right, to get comfortable in the field again, and you're really focused on that. I try not to worry about it. I know one thing: If you produce, you'll be in the lineup."

These Phillies may have no choice otherwise.

 


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