Werth injury leaves Phils short John Mayberry Jr. had to play in center field for the first time.

Posted: March 13, 2009

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — When Jayson Werth says that his shoulder feels fine, he often wears a bored expression, indicating that he could do without the daily concern. Now, he will be reminded of his health again, at a time when Charlie Manuel is eager to see his regular-season lineup together.

Werth was scheduled to bat second and start in center field for the Phillies yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays, but remained in Clearwater because of a groin injury. According to Manuel, Werth, 29, reported "a little tweak" during Wednesday's loss to the Atlanta Braves. The outfielder was concerned enough to visit a doctor, who recommended resting for a day. Werth is expected to play today against Pittsburgh.

The situation underscored a trio of concerns for the Phillies: Werth's fragility; the team's inability to keep their regular lineup together this spring (in addition to injuries to Werth, Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz elected to participate in the World Baseball Classic); and a lack of depth among position players in their farm system.

The groin injury is Werth's second health-related setback of the spring. He suffered a mild shoulder strain during batting practice on Feb. 27, and missed more than a week of the Grapefruit League schedule. Werth has been the victim of numerous injuries during his career; most notably, he sat out the entire 2006 season after wrist surgery. He also spent time on the 15-day disabled list last season with an oblique strain.

After Tampa Bay limited the Phillies to three hits in a 3-2 loss yesterday, Manuel said that he was growing increasingly eager to see his regular lineup together, including Werth.

"We've got three regulars out there today," Manuel said. "Actually, we've got to get our regular lineup out there soon."

In addition to diminishing the lineup, Werth's absence underscored the lack of outfield talent in the Phillies' organization. With Victorino away and Werth injured, Jason Ellison, 31, was the next in line to start. He went 0 for 3 yesterday.

While Werth's shoulder healed last week, Eric Bruntlett, 31, was the team's starting center fielder. Last Friday, John Mayberry Jr., a corner outfielder, played center for the first time in his life.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledged the weakness. After years of relatively low draft position and trades that helped the Phillies win a World Series but cost them many prospects, the team now must typically turn to older players when a regular is injured.

"One of the issues with trading Greg Golson [shipped to Texas last November for Mayberry] is that you put yourself in a position where you don't have a true centerfielder in the system," Amaro said.

Contact staff writer Andy Martino at 215-854-4874 or amartino@phillynews.com.

Battle for Fifth Spot

Pitcher G IP H ER BB K ERA

Happ 4 11 10 3 2 9 2.45

Ho Park 2 7 7 2 0 5 2.57

Kendrick * 2 5.2 14 9 1 2 14.29

Carrasco 3 7 9 8 1 6 10.29

*does not include appearance against Team USA.

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