Saturday, December 27, 2014

A clearer picture of Charlie Manuel's plan for Juan Pierre and John Mayberry

Well, if you were wondering whether the Phillies' line-up has the stuff to scratch out a 4-3 victory against a corps of relievers from a bullpen that finished 2011 ranked 12th in the National League, then last night qualifies as a resounding statement. Otherwise, as the ballplayers say, it was what it was.

A clearer picture of Charlie Manuel's plan for Juan Pierre and John Mayberry

Juan Pierre scored two runs in the Phillies´ win over the Pirates on Monday. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Juan Pierre scored two runs in the Phillies' win over the Pirates on Monday. (Kathy Willens/AP)

Well, if you were wondering whether the Phillies' line-up has the stuff to scratch out a 4-3 victory against a corps of relievers from a bullpen that finished 2011 ranked 12th in the National League, then last night qualifies as a resounding statement. Otherwise, as the ballplayers say, it was what it was.

When Freddy Galvis tripled home a run in the seventh inning, he did so against the only player on either side who is younger than he is, a 21-year-old right-hander named Ryan Beckman who has logged 139 2/3 innings in three minor league seasons, none of them above the level of Class A. When Juan Pierre led off the first inning with a double that traveled 200 feet, all of it in the air, he did so against a 26-year-old middle reliever coming off a rookie season in which he allowed 1.3 home runs and 4.4 walks-per-nine while posting a 3.95 ERA, 1.317 WHIP and 98 ERA+.

Look at it this way: In the first game of last year's end-of-March exhibition series against the Pirates, the stars were Ben Francisco, who hit a solo home run, and Luis Castillo, who went 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.

Neither player was in attendance last night.

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The only thing we can really take from these games is circumstantial evidence that supports the various observations that our intuition has recorded after a month-plus of watching the daily working of this team. For example, it seems clear that Charlie Manuel plans on handing Juan Pierre a big role in this year's offense. It also seems clear that he has some hesitation about John Mayberry Jr's ability to transition from last year's part-time success story to a valuable everyday cog in the line-up. Our own Rich Hofmann asked the manager about that yesterday, and Manuel swore that Mayberry would get his chances. And he will. Because the Phillies don't really have many other options at this point.

I think we have a pretty good idea of Manuel's intentions for the first month or so of the schedule:

1. Play Jim Thome twice per week at first base with Mayberry playing the other three or four games.

2. Rotate Juan Pierre and Laynce Nix in left field, with Pierre getting the bulk of the starts against lefties.

3. On occasion, against certain lefties, start John Mayberry Jr. in left and Ty Wigginton at first base.

In other words, I see Thome and Nix both getting two starts per week and Mayberry and Pierre both getting four. Mayberry will pick up a start every now and then in center field in relief of Shane Victorino, while Wigginton could work in at third on occasion. That puts Mayberry in position to reach 500 plate appearances, should he continue to earn the opportunity. But it is going to take a lot more than last night to convince anybody that the Galvis-Pitcher-Pierre-Polanco portion of the lineup is going to produce anything more than a convenient opportunity to grab beer, hot dogs and a bathroom break.


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