CINCINNATI — John Bowker is not automatically on the Phillies' postseason roster. Just because he was acquired in a trade from Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the day postseason eligibility is determined, does not mean he immediately becomes a key cog off the bench.
He will have a chance in September to prove his value. The Phillies have sought a bench upgrade for the entire season and decided, given the circumstances of having the lowest waiver priority, that this was the best route to explore.
It immediately creates an interesting dynamic for September. Can Bowker surpass Ross Gload on the depth chart? Of course, it will not take much for Bowker to do just that.
Gload is 1 for 15 in August, 3 for his last 31, and homerless this season. He can no longer play the outfield, Charlie Manuel said, and usually, if Gload reaches base in the late innings, he requires a pinch-runner. His torn hip has sapped him of his power and ability.
Bowker is effectively the same player Gload is when healthy. He's lefthanded, plays first base and the corner outfield positions. Historically, he is a decent pinch-hitter. Bowker is a .301 (22 for 73) pinch-hitter with four doubles, two triples and one home runs.
Then again, Bowker, 28, wasn't good enough to crack the majors with the Pirates for much of this season. He began the year in Pittsburgh, played 19 games, and has since spent his season in triple-A Indianapolis. He is first-time arbitration-eligible in 2012, so if the Phillies like him enough, they can tender him a contract.
Bowker, very much like Gload, cannot hit lefties. Period. At triple-A, he had a slash line of .242/.264/.367 against lefties. Twelve of his 15 home runs at Indianapolis came vs. righties, which he posted a .336/.384/.536 slash line against.
If Bowker can demonstrate competency as a pinch-hitter, Gload is out of the picture. It provides more flexibility on the bench, and still leaves a spot open for another minor-leaguer if the Phillies choose to carry 10 pitchers in the divisional round.
By transferring Jose Contreras to the 60-day disabled list Wednesday, the Phillies also created a "wild card" spot for postseason eligibility. When the clock strikes midnight tonight, they will have a pool of 28 players to pick from for October.
In reality, it's more than 28. It's the current 25-man roster, plus the disabled: Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton and Contreras. But because Contreras will definitely end the season on the DL, he can be replaced by anyone at all in the entire organization.
It's not guaranteed that Bowker is one of those 25, but it won't take much to elevate his status here.
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