Yes, two positions are in need of filling. With 11 exhibition games remaining until opening day at Citizens Bank Park, Utley's absence is the major story in Phillies camp. But his replacement is likely already decided - Wilson Valdez is the best defensive option, and his ability to step in last season is an important factor, Manuel said.
As for right field, 23 Grapefruit League games apparently have yielded no clear solution - at least not a public one.
"Probably right now we'd have to have a mix," Manuel said Saturday. "That doesn't mean somebody can't claim the job."
It echoes what Manuel said at the beginning of spring training, but that was when rookie Domonic Brown was still healthy. Once Brown went down, Ben Francisco became the heavy favorite to man right. He still is, but Manuel's words suggest he hasn't seen any of the candidates show they can go from being complementary to everyday players.
This spring, Francisco is hitting .326 (15 for 46) with seven extra-base hits. John Mayberry Jr. is hitting .319 (15 for 47) with a team-leading five home runs. Manuel has praised both players all spring, saying they have hit well. That, however, has not led to any clarity.
"I don't know what I might do," Manuel said. "I do a lot of strange things, sometimes."
One of the options, Manuel has hinted, will be Ross Gload. Of course, Gload cannot be the everyday rightfielder - in nine seasons he has started just 36 games in right - but he could provide a once- or twice-a-week option for the manager.
Manuel said he plans to use Gload in right more frequently as the spring schedule winds down.
"I don't want to really play Gload a lot of games straight," Manuel said. "I want to break him in and get him used to playing."
Gload is hitting .381 (16 for 42) and posted a .813 OPS in 138 plate appearances, mostly as a pinch-hitter, in 2010. He made six starts in right. Defensively, Gload is a step down from Francisco and Mayberry, and that is what would keep him from playing often.
"He can get some playing time there," Manuel said. "Gload can hit. He can give you quality at-bats."
Could Manuel insert the lefthanded Gload to start opening day against Houston righthander Brett Myers?
"I'm not saying that I won't," Manuel said. "I mean that."
Manuel has made sure to state the importance of defense this spring. But if the Phillies opt for defense over offense in replacing Utley, some defense may have to be sacrificed in right.
"I think defense comes first because of our starting pitching," Manuel said. "At the same time, we still have to score runs. You can have the greatest defensive player in the world, and you start losing games, the first thing you do is look at that defensive player."
Extra bases. Cole Hamels struggled with control in his fifth spring appearance. He walked three in the first inning of Saturday's 7-5 victory over Baltimore and could not finish four innings. "You have to be able to command the fastball, and I'm not doing that too well," Hamels said. "It's something I'll be working on." . . . Danys Baez, Scott Mathieson, and David Herndon combined for 51/3 scoreless innings of relief. Baez's spring ERA is 0.93. . . . The New York Yankees visit Clearwater on Sunday for the teams' fifth and final meeting of the spring. Joe Blanton will start.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at email@example.com.
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