Phillies Notebook: Uncertainty in Phillies outfield

Posted: September 05, 2012

CINCINNATI - It has been 5 weeks since the debut of Extreme Makeover: Phillies Outfield Edition. They have played 32 games since trading All-Star outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, but the Phils don't appear to be any closer to figuring out who can or can't take any of the three outfield spots for the 2013 season.

The most obvious name and frontrunner for one of the positions returned to the field on Monday. Domonic Brown was back in the starting lineup for just the second time in the last nine games.

The injury-riddled Brown has been dealing with a sore left knee, the result of overcompensating after suffering a right knee injury that kept him sidelined from mid-June to mid-July while with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Brown went 0-for-4 in the Phillies' 4-2 win over the Reds. Although jobs are on the line for next season, Brown, who turned 25 Monday, isn't considering the next month as an audition.

"I haven't been looking at it like that," Brown said. "I don't know, what we are now, seven [games] back? You never know what can happen. That's what I'm focused on: the playoffs and getting there. And that's it.

"I haven't thought about it too much individually. I've been trying to stay away from that. I'm just trying to go out and make sure I'm doing what I need to do . . . I'm just going out, playing hard and trying to stay on the field."

While Brown has had trouble staying healthy, dating back to spring training when he played in just seven games with thumb, neck and hamstring injuries, John Mayberry Jr. has been similarly difficult to get a read on, but for a different reason.

Mayberry went 1-for-4 with a solo homer Monday, his 28th start in the 32 games since the July 31 trades. After failing to win the leftfield job at the beginning of the season, and carrying a .232 average and .646 OPS into the All-Star break, Mayberry's bat awoke for a second straight August.

Mayberry, who hit .301 with nine homers and a .963 OPS after the trade deadline last year, is in the midst of a similar late charge. He's hitting .306 with six homers and 15 RBI in 31 games since the Pence and Victorino trades.

"There are lot of guys who run hot and cold," Charlie Manuel said of Mayberry, who hit .244 with two homers in 50 games in April and May. "If they start the season cold, their batting average is going to be down low . . . He's been getting a chance to play. He's hit some homers. Things are falling his way."

But can he ever be the same guy over the course of a whole season, and not good or bad in 2-month spurts?

"[That's] the consistency part," Manuel said. "I've always told him, 'You need to hit righthanded pitchers better' . . . That's how Jayson Werth won a job. That's how he got $126 million. Really. They're two different players, but if John can show he can consistently hit righthanded pitching and hold his own, that's what will make him an everyday player."

Mayberry entered Monday hitting .226 with a .627 OPS against righthanded pitching this season. His home run off Johnny Cueto, his 14th of the season, was his sixth off a righthander.

Nate Schierholtz, the last member of the new-look outfield, has yet to start a game since coming off the disabled list Saturday. Schierholtz, who has a broken right big toe, started nine of the first 12 games when he arrived from San Francisco in the Pence deal.

Although Mayberry and Schierholtz have seen time in centerfield, it's also fair to say Manuel expects his 2013 centerfielder to come from outside the organization. When asked about Mayberry's defense in center, the manager name-dropped two soon-to-be free-agent centerfielders.

"He's OK, he's fine," Manuel said. "He's not a [B.J.] Upton or a Michael Bourn, but he's been pretty stable."

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