David Murphy: Don't count out Podsednik

Leftfielder Scott Podsednik has made a favorable impression at spring training.
Leftfielder Scott Podsednik has made a favorable impression at spring training. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: March 13, 2012

BRADENTON, Fla. - Out of all the players who are in Phillies camp, only one has hit .300 over the last three seasons. Yesterday, that player sat in a corner of a cramped visitor's clubhouse at McKechnie Field and acknowledged that he was not guaranteed anything more than a bus ride back to Clearwater.

"My plan was to come to spring training and open some eyes," Scott Podsednik said, "whether it was with the Phillies or some other club."

With 3 weeks left before Opening Day, it's hard to imagine that there is not at least one major league team that has taken an interest in what its scouts have seen out of the the soon-to-be 36-year-old veteran this spring. And that team might very well be the Phillies. With Ryan Howard on the disabled list and Chase Utley plagued by a chronically sore left knee, Charlie Manuel's lineup is hardly the kind of juggernaut that can afford to send a .340 career on-base percentage and a .721 career OPS to the minor leagues.

Say whatever you want about Podsednik - about the injuries, about the age, about the defensive ability - you can not ignore the fact that the last time he was in the majors, he hit .297 with a .342 on-base percentage in 595 plate appearances. The last time a player equaled or bettered those marks while wearing a Phillies uniform was 2007, when Aaron Rowand and Chase Utley both did it. Podsednik did it 2 years ago, in 2010, before a late-season foot injury set him up for the most frustrating year of his career. What started as torn medial and lateral plantar fasciitis in his left foot resulted in fractures in both feet as his physiological mechanics attempted to compensate for the initial injury. He opened the season on a minor league deal in Blue Jays camp before latching on with the Phillies, but he spent most of the summer trying to get rid of the pain in his feet, playing in just 34 games, all of them in the minors.

"The worst year since I broke into the big leagues," Podsednik said.

Now, the speedy outfielder says he is healthy, and everything you see with your naked eye backs him up. In yesterday's win over the Pirates, he recorded his seventh hit in 20 Grapefruit League at-bats. Three of those hits are doubles. He has walked twice and converted all three of his stolen-base attempts. Podsednik has beaten out infield singles. He has played 40 innings in the outfield. In short, he has looked every bit the player he was in 2009 and 2010, when he hit .300/.347 (on-base)/.397 (slugging) with 65 steals and 13 home runs in 1,076 at-bats for the White Sox, Royals and Dodgers.

"To be honest with you, I feel a little bit better," Podsednik said.

Read those numbers over again, then picture them on a Phillies offense that combined to hit .253/.323/.395 last season.

What's the catch? At the moment, it is difficult to find one. Podsednik never has been regarded as a good defensive outfielder, but he was good enough to start 116 games for the White Sox in 2009 and 127 for the Royals and Dodgers in 2010. He was good enough to start 12 postseason games for the world-champion Sox in 2005 (in fact, he hit .286/.397/.551 that postseason). Yes, Podsednik is 36, and yes, foot injuries, like all injuries, can re-occur. At the moment, though, Podsednik looks more than capable of providing some veteran insurance for the John Mayberry Jr.-Laynce Nix experiment in leftfield.

Juan Pierre, who made solid contact on a couple of occasions yesterday but was also picked off at second, still has plenty of time to prove he can handle that role. Pierre can opt out of his contract if he is not on the active roster 5 days before Opening Day. Podsednik could end up starting the season in the minors. Then again, if he finishes the spring the way he has started, he'll give the Phillies little justification for sending him there.

Contact David Murphy at murphyd@phillynews.com;

follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HighCheese. Read his blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese.

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