Phillies acquire Sweeney to fill in at first

The Phillies have picked up veteran slugger Mike Sweeney from Seattle to fill in at first base while Ryan Howard is on the DL.
The Phillies have picked up veteran slugger Mike Sweeney from Seattle to fill in at first base while Ryan Howard is on the DL.
Posted: August 05, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - While Ruben Amaro Jr. announced that the Phillies had acquired veteran Mike Sweeney on Wednesday, Charlie Manuel sat in the dugout, a few feet away. When the general manager was done talking about why the Phils needed to make a move for a righthanded hitter who could play first, Manuel offered his opinion.

"He can hit," the manager said. "He can help us right now."

So much so that Manuel was willing to anoint Sweeney as the regular first baseman until Ryan Howard returns from the disabled list.

The move, however, reinforces the notion that Howard will likely miss more than the two weeks required on the disabled list.

Sweeney, acquired from the Seattle Mariners in a trade, will join the club Thursday in Florida. He will wear No. 5, the first Phillie to do so since Pat Burrell left after the 2008 season. The corresponding move on the 25-man roster will be decided Thursday.

The Phillies put in a waiver claim on Sweeney. Seattle pulled him back and the two clubs worked out a deal for either a player to be named or cash considerations.

Whatever the Phillies surrender, it won't be much. That makes it a low-risk move, much like post-July 31 moves the Phillies made for Jeff Conine, Jose Hernandez, Jamie Moyer, Scott Eyre and Tadahito Iguchi in recent years.

"Obviously, he's not as productive as he used to be," Amaro said of Sweeney. "But we still think in the limited playing time he might have that he has a chance to win some games for us."

Sweeney, in his 16th season, was hitting .263 with an .802 OPS in 30 games for Seattle. He has been on the disabled list since June 25 with back spasms, but the Phillies said Sweeney is ready to play immediately after reviewing his medical records. Sweeney played 12 games in a rehab stint for triple-A Tacoma.

In his final rehab game Tuesday, he hit two home runs and played first base. Phillies superscout Charley Kerfeld was in attendance. But the 37-year-old Sweeney has started just 25 games at first base in the majors since the end of the 2005 season. The last time he played first base full-time was in 2002.

Still, the Phillies view him as an upgrade to the Ross Gload-Cody Ransom platoon now in place.

"I don't know if we had to do anything," Amaro said. "But I think this helps because it gives us a guy who is a bona fide major-league hitter and has had a ton of success."

When Manuel was with Cleveland as hitting coach and manager, he saw Sweeney at his best, almost a decade ago. He was a five-time all-star with the Kansas City Royals.

Sweeney, who has 213 career home runs, might end up platooning with Gload. Both are better hitters against righthanders.

There is some concern that Howard may spend more than 15 days on the disabled list.

Steven Raikin, director of foot and ankle services at the Rothman Institute, said Howard likely suffered a Grade 3 sprain of his left ankle, judging by the angle at which the ankle was twisted. Raikin did not examine Howard, who used the facilities at Rothman, but has treated similar injuries.

With that injury, Raikin estimated that Howard probably would need three to four weeks before he is ready to return at the major-league level. He said it could have been worse if Howard had suffered a previous ankle injury or sprained ligaments on the inner part of his ankle.

The Phillies hope Sweeney can catch fire in Howard's absence. Among active players, Sweeney has played in the third-most games without appearing in the postseason. This could be his last shot.

"This is a great opportunity for Mike and we are pulling for him to succeed in Philadelphia," Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said in a statement.

Raul Ibanez, who played with Sweeney for three years in Kansas City, had high praise for the newest Phillie.

"He's just a quality human being," Ibanez said. "He's one of the best teammates I've ever had."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or

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