By the end of a 10-1 exhibition loss, the lineup had produced one run and no extra-base hits, and the Phillies' righthanded hitters had combined to go 2-for-17 against Smyly and the three other lefties the Tigers used.
The usual caveats apply, of course. This was the third game of a Grapefruit League schedule that is 1 week longer than usual, thanks to the World Baseball Classic. Pitchers are often closer to regular-season form than hitters are this time of year. One game is a small sample size regardless of the time of year. So rather than looking at Monday's performance as evidence that the Phillies should have an issue with their firepower from the right side, look at it as an excuse to talk about an issue that the Phillies already knew existed.
The Phillies did not sign Delmon Young because of their unfailing belief in the redemptive power of baseball. They did so because they went 23-30 in games started by lefties in 2012, and because Young offers proven 20-home-run pop from the right side of the plate at a relatively cheap price. John Mayberry, Darin Ruf and Erik Kratz offer only half of that combination, and there is no guarantee that any one of the three ends up proving to be enough of a threat to warrant a significant role on a playoff contender. Kratz was one of the bright spots of the season, posting an .809 OPS and nine homers while backing up Ruiz, but the 32-year-old catcher has made just 199 plate appearances in his major league career. Ruf, the minor league slugging sensation, has a fifth of that total.
Mayberry has averaged 19 home runs per 162 games over the last two seasons, but he did not hit his first one until May 11 of last year, by which point the Phillies had a 14-18 record and Mayberry had a .233 on-base percentage with three extra-base hits in 71 at-bats. And let's keep in mind that April could be the most pivotal stretch of the season for this lineup as it will be without its most productive righthanded bat for most of the month while Carlos Ruiz serves his 25-game suspension for a positive test for a banned stimulant.
As the Phillies' record against lefty starters last season suggests, the righthanded problem is not a new one. In 2008, when they hit 76 home runs and posted a .341 on-base percentage and .452 slugging percentage in 54 games started by southpaws, they had Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth in the middle of the lineup. By the end of last year, when they hit 52 homers with a .299 OBP and .387 SLG in 52 games started by lefties, they had said goodbye to Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, both of whom boasted significant righthanded power and base-reaching potential. Like Burrell in 2009 and Werth in 2011, Victorino and Pence have not been replaced by anything approaching their equal. New centerfielder Ben Revere is a lefthanded slap hitter who has yet to hit his first major league home run. Delmon Young's numbers over the last two seasons pale in comparison to Pence's, and Young is expected to miss much of April while recovering from microfracture ankle surgery.
All of this brings us to the other Young on the roster, who also happens to be the most accomplished righthanded hitter. In each of the last six seasons, seven-time All-Star infielder Michael Young has posted an OBP of at least .360 against lefties, which is good news for a Phillies team whose righthanded bats ranked 27th in the majors against lefties in that category. On Monday, Manuel hit Young in the three-hole in order to prevent the Tigers from being able to pitch consecutive at-bats against lefty sluggers Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, both of whom have struggled against southpaws over the last two seasons. Manuel would not say definitively that he will carry that set-up into the season, but he did say that he thinks Young can handle hitting third, and he has hinted at such an order on a couple of occasions since the Phillies acquired the 36-year-old to play third base.
"That stuff will sort itself out," Manuel said Monday.
For now, the manager will keep running out Ruf and Mayberry with the hope that one of them catches fire heading into the season and provides some help for the balancing act.
On Twitter: @HighCheese