Phillies Notebook: Manuel gets defensive

Posted: August 09, 2012

ALL SEASON, Charlie Manuel has brooded about the uncharacteristic defensive lapses that have plagued a team that is usually one of the most sure-handed in the National League. So after a loss to the Braves that featured an error and a couple other shaky fielding attempts, the manager decided to get back to basics.

That meant 3:30 p.m. fielding practice, with pitchers and catchers working on their bunt coverage and the infielders and outfielders working on their cutoff and relay throws.

"There's always going to be mistakes in the game, but at the same time, you can't just keep repeating the same mistakes," Manuel said. "We definitely have to improve on those. We never used to have trouble as far as our defense."

Defense is one of the few aspects of baseball that defies most attempts to quantify it. But whatever measure you use, the Phillies have struggled. They entered Tuesday night having committed the eighth-fewest errors in the league. Last year, they finished with the fewest. In 2010, they had the fourth-fewest. In 2009, the second-fewest. Internet stats database Baseball-Reference.com has the Phillies rated as the fourth most inefficient defensive team in the NL.

Part of the problem is personnel. Three different players have at least 20 starts at first base. Four different players have at least 15 starts at second. Seven different players have started a game at third, with Ty Wigginton, Mike Fontenot and Kevin Frandsen all making at least nine.

"The last couple years our defense has kind of gotten out of whack," Manuel said. "When you get a bunch of new players, I can see how that can happen. But we definitely need to work on our defense."

In Tuesday's win over the Braves, newly called-up leftfielder Domonic Brown made one of the stronger throws you will see, fielding a Brian McCann base hit off the wall in the corner and then throwing a chest-high dart to second base to nail McCann, who tried to stretch the single into a double, to end the top of the fifth.

Later, though, the Phillies almost had a collision at first base while attempting to cover what ended up as a bunt single by Michael Bourn.

Polanco TBA

A return by Placido Polanco is not imminent. The veteran third baseman, on the disabled list with lower-back inflammation since July 23, has done some light running, but has yet to begin fielding ground balls. If healthy, Polanco would be a candidate to be traded via the waiver process, although the Phillies likely would not receive much in return other than some minimal salary relief. Polanco would have to be traded by Aug. 31 to be eligible for any postseason roster.

Phillers

The Phillies did not sell out for the second straight night. Their NL-record streak was snapped at 257 games on Monday ... Ryan Howard's two-run homer in the first inning was his first since July 23, which was also the date of his last multiple-RBI game ... Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, batting .136 in the last 51 games, wasn't in the lineup. He's 8-for-55 against Cole Hamels ... Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor, who surrendered Howard's homer, has allowed 23 homers, tying him with former Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton for most in the NL ... Hamels made his 100th career start at Citizens Bank Park. He's 47-32 ... Howard has 38 homers and 109 RBI in 127 games vs. Atlanta ... This was only the second complete game for the Phillies this season. They had 18 in 2011.

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