Utley's absence means opportunity for others

Pete Orr has major-league experience.
Pete Orr has major-league experience.
Posted: March 03, 2011

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Pete Orr and Josh Barfield sat in the far corner of the Phillies clubhouse, the one reserved for players wearing Nos. 60 and 61, contemplating the day's crossword. It's a daily ritual for the two non-roster players.

"Put the two of us together and we can almost finish it," Barfield said.

They came here this spring because the Phillies were the first team that showed a great deal of interest in their services. Neither played at the major-league level in 2010. But in triple A, Orr played six positions; Barfield saw time at three.

"If they're going to be bench players for us," Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said, "they have to play multiple positions."

Call it the Wilson Valdez Corollary. The Phillies were so impressed with the way Valdez - a non-roster player last spring - filled in defensively at so many positions, they applied that approach to signing more utility players this winter.

It's not a bad idea, considering that every member of the Phillies starting infield spent time on the disabled list in 2010. And Chase Utley already is sidelined by patellar tendinitis, having yet to play a Grapefruit League game in 2011.

In his absence, four players have started a game at second: Valdez, Orr, Barfield, and Brian Bocock. Delwyn Young is another non-roster player who can play second base. If Utley is out for a short period of time, Valdez is the likely replacement.

Last season, Valdez and Juan Castro split time as the middle-infield reserves. Castro was cut in July, and Valdez was the only middle infielder on the bench for most of the second half.

With an aging infield, that could be risky in 2011.

"Given the injuries we've had in the past, the more guys we have with experience could help us," Proefrock said.

Barfield, 28, had a stellar rookie season for San Diego in 2006, hitting .280 with 13 home runs. He has played in just 159 major-league games since then but hit .294 with a .725 OPS at triple-A Portland last season. And he has five hits in his first three spring games.

"He's a guy who one of our scouts thought he was maybe getting it back a little bit," Proefrock said.

Young, 28, is a corner outfielder by trade but has played some second and third base. He is a career .271 pinch-hitter and led the majors with 16 pinch-hits in 2010 while playing for Pittsburgh. He is 4 for 9 in early spring action.

Orr, 31, has five seasons of experience in the majors with Atlanta and Washington. He had a .761 OPS with 12 home runs at triple-A Syracuse in 2010. Proefrock said Dave Hollins scouted Orr primarily in 2010 and suggested he would be a good fit.

"I look at it as this team is going to be so good, you want to do your best to be a part of it," Orr said.

In the early spring games, Orr, Barfield, and Young have been a regular part of the action. There are bench spots to be had, and even if it's not as part of the opening-day roster, recent history shows there will be chances later. Just look at Valdez.

The Grapefruit League at-bats gained in Utley's absence could mean something, eventually.

"It's an opportunity for them to see some guys play that maybe they wouldn't get to see too much," Orr said.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter

at twitter.com/magelb.

 

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