Phillies' bench jobs up for grabs

ASSOCIATED PRESS Laynce Nix , who struggled after injury last year, provides lefthanded-hitting depth in rightfield and left.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Laynce Nix , who struggled after injury last year, provides lefthanded-hitting depth in rightfield and left.
Posted: February 08, 2013

This is the final part of a four-part series by David Murphy looking at the Phillies as they head into spring training. Today: The bench.

FOR MOST of the last 5 years, the Phillies' bench has consisted of well-defined roles:

The righthanded-hitting reserve outfielder (So Taguchi, Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr.).

The lefthanded-hitting corner infielder/outfielder (Greg Dobbs, Ross Gload).

The lefty slugger (Matt Stairs, Jim Thome).

The utility man (Eric Bruntlett, Juan Castro, Wilson Valdez).

And, of course, the backup catcher (Chris Coste, Paul Bako, Brian Schneider).

But as the Phillies descend on Clearwater, Fla., next week, they will do so with a number of players who have the opportunity to dictate the roles they will fill in what is likely to be a lineup that includes several rotations.

Here is what we know so far:

* The Phillies will keep a utility player to go with Kevin Frandsen, who was re-signed in the offseason but who is not viewed as a strong defensive shortstop. Initially, it looked as though that role would be filled by slick-fielding second-year player Freddy Galvis. But the Phillies' recent signing of Yuniesky Betancourt could change things. Keeping the 31-year-old righthanded hitter would allow Galvis to get regular at-bats in the minor leagues.

* Erik Kratz will spend most of the season as the backup catcher, but he is likely to begin the year as the starter while Carlos Ruiz serves a 25-game suspension for testing positive for a banned stimulant. At this point, the likely backup to Kratz would be nonroster invitee Humberto Quintero, although the Phillies are likely looking for another option or two to bring into spring training. Besides Kratz and Ruiz, the only other catcher on the 40-man roster is prospect Sebastian Valle. The only other nonroster invitees at this point who play catcher are prospect Tommy Joseph and veteran minor leaguer Steven Lerud.

* Laynce Nix is likely to be the primary lefthanded bat off the bench, although he could end up getting frequent at-bats in the starting lineup in left- or rightfield. That, of course, depends on what happens with Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and Mayberry. And that's where things get interesting. Mayberry, who is out of options, is the team's most versatile outfielder and one of the few members of the roster who can play centerfield (another is Rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte). But that would leave the Phillies with only one lefthanded bench bat, as well as room for only one of Ruf or Brown, unless they were willing to go with six bench players and six relievers instead of the usual five bench players and seven relievers.

The bench

Projected bench:

C Erik Kratz (RHB), OF/1B Laynce Nix (LHB), IF Kevin Frandsen (RHB), UTIL Yuniesky Betancourt (RHB), OF/1B John Mayberry Jr. (RHB)

Names to know:

Joe Mather, a 30-year-old outfielder who played in 103 games for the Cubs last year, can play centerfield, although he is more likely an organizational-depth guy. The Phillies selected Ender Inciarte in the Rule 5 and like his speed and defensive ability, but would likely have to go with six bench players to think about keeping him around. Jermaine Mitchell is a 28-year-old outfielder who developed in the Athletics' system but never broke into the majors. Righthanded hitter Josh Fields is a former top prospect who hit 23 home runs as a 24-year-old for the White Sox in 2007 but has not played in the majors since 2010. He played third base and first base for the Dodgers' Triple A affiliate last year. While the Phillies don't have much room for any of their homegrown prospects, catchers Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle and third baseman Cody Asche all are worth watching.


On Twitter: @HighCheese

Blog: philly.com/HighCheese

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