IT MIGHT sound hokey, but the makeup of the Phillies' bench heading into the 2012 season really will depend on who's on first. Manager Charlie Manuel has no shortage of options to fill in for injured slugger Ryan Howard, who is expected to miss at least the first 2 months of the season. From there, the dominoes will fall. The likely scenario heading into spring training has John Mayberry Jr. starting in leftfield and veteran Ty Wigginton getting the first crack at first base.
But the situation is best described as fluid. If you are a veteran hoping to get at-bats on a World Series-contending team, the Phillies are as good a place to be as any. Laynce Nix, who signed a 2-year, $2.5 million deal after spending the last three seasons in Cincinnati and Washington, should get plenty of opportunities against righthanded pitchers, whom he tagged for 16 home runs in 297 at-bats last season (albeit with a .263/.306/.475 batting line). Nix is viewed primarily as a leftfielder, but he has played eight games at first base in his career. How much he factors into the equation at first will depend largely on whether Jim Thome fulfills the Phillies' optimistic hope that he will be able to get his 41-year-old body in shape to play the field, something he has not done since 2007.