Manuel's tough choice: Pierre or Podsednik?

, 36, has impressed on the field and at the plate this spring. He's batting .362 and has stolen five bases without being caught. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
, 36, has impressed on the field and at the plate this spring. He's batting .362 and has stolen five bases without being caught. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer (Veteran outfielder Scott Podsednik)
Posted: March 28, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Juan Pierre sat alone for breakfast Tuesday morning. He was far from his locker in the Phillies clubhouse, seated in the part of the room where scores of empty lockers mark reminders of all the players who didn't make it.

He twiddled with his phone and looked up a few times as two more players said their good-byes. He wore a red T-shirt with the words "Beast Mode" on it, and the "t" is designed to resemble a cross. Yes, this is unfamiliar territory for a veteran of 12 years and 1,751 games, but he has faith.

"The Bible says be anxious about nothing," Pierre said. "So pray on it, and I leave it in God's hands. Wherever he wants me to be, I will be. That's what I truly believe. It's not a bunch of hogwash. That has made this process go a little bit easier for me."

The process has an end, and it's approaching. The Phillies must make a decision on Pierre by Friday. Charlie Manuel admitted it might be the most difficult one he faces in the final week before the 2012 season begins.

There was Scott Podsednik, who won Tuesday's game with a walk-off home run, entering the clubhouse as the hero. He sat for a postgame lobster meal with his teammates, and he's fit in just as Pierre has. He is, after all, a veteran of 10 years and 1,016 games.

It's either Pierre or Podsednik, and not both for these Phillies.

"It's close," Manuel said. "Both have been pretty good players. We'll discuss it."

More than just baseball will factor into the final verdict. If Pierre, 34, is not added to the 25-man roster by Friday, he can ask for his release. Should the Phillies ask Pierre to go to the minors, he must accept that assignment, and he is awarded a $100,000 retention bonus. Pierre will earn $800,000 if he spends the entire season in the majors.

Meanwhile, Podsednik, 36, cannot be granted his release until June 1 and can go to the minors until then. Should Podsednik spend the year in the majors, he'd make $750,000.

In other words, if the Phillies chose to keep Pierre, they can retain both to make a more informed judgment. That could be what tips the scales in Pierre's favor.

"Pierre is more of a guy that's a table setter," Manuel said. "He's a guy that if you want him to help your team, he has to hit high in the order where he can get on base. Podsednik is a little bit stronger hitter."

Podsednik has had the better spring; he's hitting .362 (17 for 47) and has stolen five bases without being caught. Pierre is hitting .289 (13 for 45) and has walked more times than he's struck out. But he has been caught stealing three times and successful only twice.

The Phillies must strike a balance between deciding on a small sample size of Grapefruit League play and the players' track records.

Pierre spent 2011 as an everyday player in Chicago with 711 plate appearances. Podsednik played in only 34 minor-league games from Las Vegas to Dunedin to Lehigh Valley.

"It's always hard in spring training because I'm not a selfish guy," Pierre said. "I've never played selfish. I've always been a guy who takes pitches. But in this situation, I have to play outside my box."

Pierre has distributed "Beast Mode" shirts to any of his new teammates who asked for one. But Pierre understands there are no guarantees on how long he spends with them.

"You've been playing for all these years," Pierre said. "It's a weird feeling."


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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