Pierre leads Phils in the art of bunting

Posted: February 28, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - It takes place on a half field in the early-morning hours before the Phillies' spring-training workouts officially begin at the Carpenter Complex.

A small group of Phillies hitters, led by the master of the craft, Juan Pierre, practice the art of bunting.

This, too, is part of the hitting mandate general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. laid down during the offseason.

Most of the Phillies' front office watched the bunting session Monday, but Amaro was the lone witness Tuesday.

"I think we're doing it more, and I think we have a guy in Juan Pierre who can really bunt," Amaro said. "Why would we not utilize one of the best guys in the game to help perpetuate the thought process?"

A year ago, the Phillies ranked last in the National League with eight bunt base hits. The team's 24 attempts for bunt hits were also last in the league. Only the Boston Red Sox bunted fewer times than the Phillies among baseball's 30 teams.

By contrast, Pierre led baseball with 19 bunt hits while playing for the Chicago White Sox.

"I did have a quick talk with Juan about trying to bring guys over to the other side in some regard," Amaro said. "I want him to show guys that it can still be a weapon for people. It's like leaving a gun in your holster. There's no reason to do that if you have a pretty good gun and you need it, and there are times when I think you do need it.

"I don't want everybody to all of a sudden be bunting. I want people to be smart about it, but at the same time you want to be able to use that weapon, and hopefully that will happen."

Jimmy Rollins had five bunt singles in six attempts last season, but Shane Victorino did not attempt to bunt for a hit the entire season.

The games begin

We get a reprieve from the mundane spring-training workouts Wednesday when the Phillies play a spring-training exhibition against Florida State University at Bright House Field.

A parade of young pitchers will take the mound against the Seminoles, beginning with Austin Hyatt, the Florida State League pitcher of the year two seasons ago at single-A Clearwater. Hyatt, 25, went 12-6 with a 3.85 ERA at double-A Reading last season and finished strong by posting a 5-1 record and 2.78 ERA after the All-Star break. He is likely to begin this season as part of manager Ryne Sandberg's staff at triple-A Lehigh Valley.

As David Hale from the Wilmington News Journal recently noted, Austin Hyatt is also a fun name to Google because, instead of a profile on the pitcher, you get a lot of information about hotels in the capital of Texas.

Hyatt will be followed to the mound Wednesday by Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, Michael Schwimer, Joe Savery, J.C. Ramirez, B.J. Rosenberg and Phillippe Aumont.

From that group, Diekman has received the most attention in the early stages of spring training and even emerged as a candidate to be the second lefthander out of the bullpen. A 30th-round pick in 2007, he followed up a strong season at Reading by posting a 0.79 ERA in 11 appearances in the Arizona Fall League.

Schwimer, Savery and Aumont are also coming off strong minor-league seasons and could end up in Philadelphia at some point this season.

After Wednesday's game, the Phillies will have two more workouts before opening their Grapefruit League schedule Saturday at home against the New York Yankees.

Manager Charlie Manuel said second baseman Chase Utley, third baseman Placido Polanco and catchers Brian Schneider and Carlos Ruiz will not play in the against Florida State.

Lee throws

Cliff Lee, after experiencing some abdominal soreness last week, threw live batting practice to hitters for the first time this spring.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Lee is fine.

   Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.


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