Freddy Galvis is ready, but can Phillies find a spot for him?

MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Freddy Galvis has hit two home runs and played his usual stellar defense this spring, earning praise from Charlie Manuel.
MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Freddy Galvis has hit two home runs and played his usual stellar defense this spring, earning praise from Charlie Manuel.
Posted: March 20, 2013

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Charlie Manuel can't mask his love for Freddy Galvis.

From the time the slick-fielding infielder stepped into the second-base spot for the first time in his life last spring to his holding down the position - and looking like a Gold Glover in doing so - in the first 2 months of the 2012 season, Galvis won over his big-league manager.

But Chase Utley is healthy and set to take the field for his first Opening Day start in 3 years. Jimmy Rollins is back from the World Baseball Classic and ready to return to shortstop, and veteran Michael Young has handled his return to third base with ease this spring.

As much as Manuel admires Galvis' defense and baseball aptitude, there isn't a position available for him to play.

"I'll play Freddy some," Manuel said. "I'll find a place."

The Phillies leave Florida in 9 days. They have less than 2 weeks of exhibition games remaining before the Grapefruit League season gives way to the regular season and the roster has to shrink to 25 names.

With the veterans aligning the infield, Galvis is in competition with Kevin Frandsen and non-roster invitee Yuniesky Betancourt for what figures to be two utility infield jobs on the Phillies' bench.

On Monday, Galvis sat on the bench against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex, while Betancourt (shortstop) and Frandsen (second base) manned the middle infield.

Betancourt went 4-for-5 with a double, raising his spring average to .450 (18-for-40) in 14 games. Frandsen went 1-for-5 and made a nifty stab and throw on a ball hit back up the middle; he's hitting .298 (14-for-47) with four doubles, a triple and two home runs this spring.

"I think we have some good competition going - that's good," Manuel said following a 17-10 loss to the Braves. "What do we have, 10 games? It's going down to the wire. We'll decide something."

The Phils actually have nine games remaining in Florida and 11 exhibition games in total, including two against Toronto at Citizens Bank Park over Easter weekend.

But they have only four games remaining before they have to make one decision: Betancourt, 31, a veteran of eight big-league seasons, has an opt-out clause in his contract. He must be notified by Sunday whether he will be on the 25-man roster; he can ask to be released if the Phils do not guarantee him a spot.

Betancourt's four-hit game did not go unnoticed by Manuel.

"Betancourt had a good game, a big-time game," Manuel said. "He made some plays."

Manuel praised Frandsen's hitting, too. Frandsen, who signed a 1-year, $850,000 deal this winter, hit .338 in 55 games with the Phillies in 2012.

So where does that leave Galvis?

Galvis, 23, could be the odd man out simply because the Phillies have the most flexibility with him. He has options remaining, meaning the Phils can option him to Triple A and not risk losing him, as they would with Frandsen or Betancourt.

"If I make the team, that's good," Galvis said of being in limbo in the final 2 weeks of camp. "If I have to go to Triple A, I'll just keep playing and keep learning. I know I'm young and I have to keep playing."

Galvis came off the bench in the sixth inning on Monday to play the game's last three innings at third base. He's hitting .273 (15-for-35) with 17 strikeouts and two walks in 19 games.

Galvis hit his second home run of the spring on Sunday, and nine of his 15 hits have gone for extra bases: six doubles and one triple, in addition to the two home runs.

Since Galvis had played in only 33 games above Double A at this time last year, it's worth arguing that he could benefit from a development standpoint by playing every day at Triple A, rather than as a sparingly used reserve on the big-league roster. Manuel has argued that he could get Galvis more than 200 at-bats in the big leagues, but he's also a manager who rarely sits Utley or Rollins when both are healthy.

And he's also a manager who had the following to say about Ender Inciarte, a Rule 5 outfielder who is also competing for a bench job this spring:

"You're asking a kid a whole lot to be a utility player at 21, 22 years old. I know we'll discuss it, but when you stop and think about it, you're trying to make a utility guy out of a guy 21, 22 years old. By being realistic about it, that can set him back in his development."

The 22-year-old Inciarte is only 11 months younger than his fellow Venezuelan, Galvis. Although Inciarte hasn't played above Class A ball, while Galvis has, you could still argue that Galvis is also a still-in-development hitter.

While in the big leagues for the first time last year, Galvis hit .226 with 19 extra-base hits in 190 at-bats.

In 2011, his last full season in the minor leagues, Galvis hit .278 with 41 extra-base hits in 543 at-bats. In his first four seasons in the minor leagues, Galvis hit .233 with a total of 60 extra-base hits in 1,444 at-bats.

Galvis, a switch-hitter, said he altered his swing two springs ago, working with current Phillies hitting coach and former minor league hitting instructor Steve Henderson, going from trying to take everything to the opposite field to getting out in front of the ball more often. The result has been more gap hits to rightfield while hitting from the left side.

Galvis has six doubles this spring, more than Utley and Young combined (five).

While he may be a favorite of the manager and offer the best glove among the potential reserve infielders in camp, Galvis also likely has the brightest future and is close to 10 years younger than his competition. He could continue to blossom as a hitter by playing every day.

Although his surgically repaired back is healthy and his bat is strong, Galvis could very well begin the season as a Lehigh Valley IronPig simply because it would provide the Phillies with the most depth when looking at the 2013 season as a whole.

"We have decisions to make," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We have flexibility with Freddy. We don't have as much flexibility with the other guys. We'll try to do what's best, not just for the club, but for the organization. All three of them are all very much in the mix."


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: philly.com/HighCheese

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