Phillies Notebook: Infield help wouldn't hurt, given Phillies' injuries

Polanco
Polanco
Posted: July 07, 2011

MIAMI - A few important points before we look at the big-picture ramifications of Placido Polanco's back condition, which sidelined him last night for the second straight game:

* Polanco says the soreness is not related to the back spasms that prevented him from starting Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Reds last October.

* He does not sound too concerned about the pain in his lower back, which he said has caused some numbness to shoot down both legs.

* He still plans to start Tuesday's All-Star Game in Arizona.

All that said, Polanco missed back-to-back starts for the first time all season and is scheduled to see a back specialist today in Philadelphia. The visit is more precautionary than anything. Polanco said yesterday he could have played the last couple of days, but manager Charlie Manuel and the training staff have decided to play it safe with their 35-year-old third baseman.

"I can play, it's just not comfortable," Polanco said. "So they decided to not play me these two games, take advantage of that day off [today], let it rest and heal and come back Friday . . . They are just going to make sure that it's nothing bad."

As the Phillies evaluate the trade market in advance of the July 31 nonwaiver deadline, the expectation is that they will take into consideration their infield, with Polanco banged up and second baseman Chase Utley continuing to play with a knee condition that sidelined him for most of the first 2 months.

Kansas City's Wilson Betemit, who has hit .293, with a .363 on- base percentage and .473 slugging percentage, with 16 home runs in 471 at-bats over the last two seasons, is one player you can expect them to consider. Betemit is considered a below-average defensive third baseman, but he has spent most of his career at the position, along with brief stints at shortstop, second base and the outfield. The switch-hitting 29-year-old is better from the left side of the plate, so he would not necessarily address their need for a righthanded-hitting outfielder. But any team that acquires him would owe him less than half of his $1 million salary, and as a free-agent-to-be he likely would not cost much in the way of prospects.

In addition to Betemit, the Royals have a righthanded-hitting outfielder who could be available in Jeff Francoeur. The Phillies considered the 27-year-old former Braves rightfielder before he signed a $2.5 million deal with the Royals that includes a mutual option for 2012. Some in the organization still think he could be a good fit.

Francoeur's performance has declined steadily since a strong April in which he hit .314/.357/.569, with five home runs. Over his last 57 games, he has hit .242/.290/.399, but he still has shown decent power (seven home runs, 10 doubles, two triples in 223 at-bats). Francoeur also continues to crush lefthanded pitching. This season, he is 25-for-76 with seven home runs and four doubles against southpaws.

Another potential trade target could be Houston's Jeff Keppinger, a shortstop who also can play second and third and who would remain under club control after the season, when Jimmy Rollins is scheduled to become a free agent. The Cubs' Jeff Baker also could be on the market.

Last night, Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez started at third base for the first time this season, while John Mayberry Jr. started in center in place of Shane Victorino, who is sidelined until at least Friday with a Grade 1 thumb sprain. Neither Martinez nor Wilson Valdez has shown an ability to replace Polanco's steady bat, but both are regarded as strong defenders.

The bad back, which has bothered Polanco for about a month, has clearly affected his swing. Since June 6, he is hitting .156 with a .238 on-base percentage and .211 slugging percentage in 101 plate appearances over 25 games, sending his overall line plummeting from .320/.367/.398 to .274/.331/.346. In his last five starts, three of which came on artificial turf in Toronto, he is 0-for-15.

"I think that turf in Toronto made it worse," Polanco said. "That didn't help, for sure."

But Polanco is not concerned enough to skip what would be the second All-Star appearance of his career. The veteran, who is signed through next season, said he was banged up when he played for the American League in 2007. His manager with the Tigers, Jim Leyland, was the All-Star manager that year and insisted that Polanco take at least one at-bat.

"I'm going to go," Polanco said. "You don't have that opportunity [often] . . . I had something like this in 2006 or 2007 and they treated it and in a couple of weeks I was feeling back to normal."

Phillers

Righthander Brad Lidge (elbow/shoulder) will make a second rehab appearance at Class A Lakewood tonight. Lidge is expected to be sidelined until at least late July . . . Righthander Joe Blanton (elbow) threw another bullpen session yesterday, although there is no timetable for a rehab stint . . . Righthander Roy Oswalt (back) will return to Dallas to receive an injection or series of injections. The Phillies hope that he will be able to return before the end of July.

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