The Phillies' bench

Posted: February 14, 2012

What we know: The bench is going to look a lot different than it did the last couple of years, when Ross Gload and Ben Francisco were the top two options off the bench. Gload, currently a free agent, battled a hip injury all year and was limited to 116 plate appearances. Francisco hit .244/.340/.364 with six home runs in 293 regular-season plate appearances, then contributed a game-winning homer off Jaime Garcia in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. The Phillies shipped him to Toronto after the season, and later parted ways with strong-armed utility man Wilson Valdez. In their place is a collection of veterans: lefty slugger Jim Thome, lefty outfielder Laynce Nix and righthanded corner infielder/outfielder Ty Wigginton.

What to watch: Thome will spend spring training trying to see if he can contribute at all at first base, where he has not played since 2007. Although the 41-year-old slugger faces an uphill battle, his performance at first base will be an interesting subplot to monitor during the dog days of Grapefruit League play.

Other issues: The Phillies traded away Valdez, opting to go with former Rule 5 draft pick Michael Martinez as their lone defensive specialist. He should have plenty of backup in the minors, with veteran Pete Orr returning on a minor league deal. Former big-leaguer Kevin Frandsen, who spent 2011 at Triple A Lehigh Valley, also returns on a minor league deal. If the Phillies need a long-term sub for shortstop Jimmy Rollins, they could think about promoting prospect Freddy Galvis, who is thought to have a major league glove but is coming off his first season of hitting success in the minors.

Other players in camp: Veteran outfielder Juan Pierre will enter the spring as the favorite to earn the fifth spot on the bench while Ryan Howard recovers from Achilles' surgery. Another former leadoff hitter/basestealer type who will be looking to win a job is Scott Podsednik. Other veterans include infielder Hector Luna and outfielder Lou Montanez.

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