If needed, Phillies have two veteran IronPigs down on the farm

Belliard
Belliard
Posted: April 07, 2011

ALLENTOWN - If the Phillies need to dip into their farm system to address any issues at second base, they have a couple of veterans biding their time in Triple A.

Josh Barfield, who signed in November, is going to be the regular second baseman. When he's not at second, the big club wants him to play some centerfield for Lehigh Valley.

Another guy staying loose is Ronnie Belliard, who signed on March 31 after spending spring training with the Yankees. Belliard turns 36 today and has played nearly 1,200 games in the majors at second. He'll begin the season playing mostly third base. The IronPigs host Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight in their season opener.

"I always played against the Phillies," said Belliard, who was with Washington from 2007-09. "They have a good team and are always competitive. I just came here to continue my career. If I can help the big-league team, I'll be down here and ready."

The uncertainty of Chase Utley's knee injury makes the depth at second base a question mark, even though replacement starter Wilson Valdez has been just fine early on. Belliard is a 13-year veteran at the major league level, who played in the 2004 All-Star Game while with the Indians and won a championship with the Cardinals 2 years later.

"He's a righthanded bat, which possibly could come into play at the major league level," said Lehigh Valley manager and Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg. "He's a veteran guy and an insurance policy. From what I've seen so far, he swings the bat real good and is in good shape. He's a nice pickup. He'll fill a need for us and possibly also with the Phillies as a righthanded bat."

Belliard, who hit .216 last year with the Dodgers, clearly is no longer an everyday player, but he holds possible value as a bench candidate for the big club provided he shows there is still juice in the tank.

Barfield, 28, is another guy trying to climb his way back into the bigs. After a fine rookie season with San Diego in 2006 (.280, 151 hits, 21 stolen bases), he was dealt to Cleveland and hit just .243 the following season. Barfield, whose father Jesse played 12 seasons for the Blue Jays and Yankees, has been around the game his entire life. If there's one thing he won't let himself do is get too caught up in what the big club needs, even if the player ahead of him is an All-Star second baseman dealing with an injury that will keep him out for God knows how long.

"It's hard, but the best thing to do is stay focused here on what you can control," said Barfield, who hit .302 in spring training for the Phillies. "What goes on from 7 to 10 o'clock on the field; you can't worry about who's in front of you and how they are doing or what the injuries are. You'll drive yourself crazy thinking about all that stuff."

Pig-lets

The opener will give Lehigh Valley a chance to be over the .500 mark for the first time in history. The club has been at .500 on two occasions, but never above it in its first three seasons . . . Despite that, the IronPigs led all of minor league baseball in attendance last season with 645,905 (an average of 9,227) . . .

Righthander Vance Worley will start for the IronPigs tonight opposite Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's David Phelps. Worley started two games for the Phillies toward the end of last season and went five innings each outing. He'd probably have gotten a look as a starter for the big club this spring if it wasn't such a ridiculously deep rotation. *

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