Pierre could return to bench in '13

Posted: August 17, 2012

MIAMI - Juan Pierre and the roof at Marlins Park moved in synchrony Wednesday morning. Even though he wasn't in Charlie Manuel's lineup, Pierre was the first and only Phillies player on the field. The heavy air still permeated this new ballpark as the retractable roof closed while he stretched.

Pierre was guaranteed nothing until the late stages of spring training. Now, the way Manuel talks, the manager is smitten with the idea of Pierre's being a bench mainstay in 2013.

"I can see a spot for him next year," Manuel said. "Yes, sir. I can see a spot for him on about every National League team."

The accolades for Pierre have flowed freely as his batting average has floated above .300 for all but eight days in 2012. No one is suggesting the 35-year-old is a savior for an outfield riddled with questions. He has defensive shortcomings and does not hit for any semblance of power.

He certainly could make for a decent bench option next season. As a pinch-hitter Wednesday, Pierre struck out to begin the eighth inning.

Pierre was the subject of rumors in July, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted he was not eager to trade him. Both Manuel and Amaro have suggested that other players on the team follow Pierre's work ethic.

Pierre is making $800,000 this season. He did not sign until Jan. 27, and it was a minor-league deal with the Phillies. He will seek a guaranteed contract with a likely raise as a bench player this winter. The Phillies could very well retain him.

"The older he gets," Manuel said, "he can definitely play longer being a National League player, I think."

Most notable is Pierre's increased base-stealing accuracy. Of the 22 players since 1901 with at least 500 steals, Pierre ranks 20th with a 75 percent success rate.

He has stolen 28 bases in 2012 and been caught only four times. That 88 percent rate is by far the best of his career.

Anyone paying attention?

Carlos Lee walked on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth inning Wednesday after Roy Halladay and catcher Erik Kratz lost track of the count. They appealed, and the umpires checked with the press box.

"Kratzy and I both thought there were three balls. I don't know why," Halladay said. "They weren't 100 percent sure. That was kind of a little bit surprising. Kratzy asked him [plate umpire Chad Fairchild], and he said, 'I think it's four, but I'm not sure.'

"Then he asked the first-base umpire, and he's like, 'I think it's four, but I'm not sure either.' They ended up calling upstairs to find out."

Halladay said that was a new experience for him.

"Usually, one of them for sure will say that's four," the pitcher said. "But we had all four of them there and none of them were sure."

Lee went to third on a double by Giancarlo Stanton and scored on Greg Dobbs' single. Donovan Solano followed with a sacrifice fly.

Cutter cutdown

One notable change Kyle Kendrick implemented Tuesday during his seven scoreless innings was the use of fewer cutters.

Kendrick has always been a sinker-ball pitcher, but in his disastrous start against Atlanta last week he threw more cutters (31) than sinkers (24), according to Pitch F/X data.

He threw 47 sinkers and 10 cutters in Tuesday's win.

"Sometimes I overthink stuff," Kendrick said. "I get cutter-happy. The last game, I threw 30 cutters. That's not me. [Pitching coach Rich] Dubee and I talked about knowing who I am and being who I am. When I have success, I do what I did, and that's pound the sinker, get early contact. . . . That's who I am."

Polanco to play

Placido Polanco's rehabilitation schedule will differ from the plan originally outlined by Manuel. Polanco will play for single-A Clearwater on Thursday instead of Wednesday, as initially thought.

Polanco, who is recovering from back inflammation, is expected to play three games for Clearwater and rejoin the Phillies for Monday's game against Cincinnati. Manuel has said Polanco will not be his everyday third baseman upon his return.

Extra bases

First baseman Ryan Howard did not start for the first time in 11 games. . . . Before Tuesday, the last time the Phillies won a game by 1-0 with a leadoff home run was June 12, 1969, when John Briggs homered and Grant Jackson tossed a shutout.

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