Phillies' bench picture clearing with release of Yuniesky Betancourt

Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere makes a diving catch of a liner off the bat of Boston's Will Middlebrooks. Revere had two hits in the 7-6 loss.
Phillies centerfielder Ben Revere makes a diving catch of a liner off the bat of Boston's Will Middlebrooks. Revere had two hits in the 7-6 loss. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 26, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Yuniesky Betancourt snared a line drive in the ninth inning Sunday and turned it into a double play for his final act as a Phillie. Six minutes after a 7-6 loss to Boston ended, Betancourt slipped on red shorts and walked to Charlie Manuel's office.

He emerged a free agent four minutes later, destined for a job elsewhere in the majors.

"It was a very difficult decision," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He played great for us. We had some other guys feel great, and we're comfortable with where we are as far as those players are concerned."

The presence of Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen made Betancourt superfluous. The Phillies would have loved to retain Betancourt as depth at triple A, but the veteran exercised his contractual right to ask for his release.

With a week until the season commences in Atlanta, the bench remains unsettled. Humberto Quintero and Steven Lerud are competing to be the backup catcher. Rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte has never played above single A but could make the roster as the fifth outfielder.

Amaro said the team would be active in seeking upgrades. Two baseball sources said the Phillies are looking for catching and outfield help for the bench. It is possible that the 25th man will come from outside the organization.

The Phillies could have kept Betancourt and constructed a bench with three reserve infielders. But the outfield would be thin with one reserve until Delmon Young returns from ankle surgery.

"It's a numbers game," Betancourt said. "I understand it, and I appreciate the fact that the organization gave me a shot to prove myself at the major-league level."

The average age of the Phillies starting infield is over 341/2. The team believes Galvis and Frandsen provide suitable insurance.

Manuel revealed his preference one day before the Phillies' first full-squad workout. He said he envisioned Galvis playing in 60 or 70 games. With pinch-hit appearances, that could amount to 300 at-bats in the majors.

"Does he help us giving us 300 at-bats here, or 500 at-bats in the minor leagues?" Manuel said Feb. 15. "I say being on our team, getting 300 at-bats" is the choice.

For a team with suspect defense, sending its best defensive player to triple A was not ideal. The way Manuel spoke all spring, it was never even a possibility. Galvis, who fractured his back last June and was suspended 50 games for steroid use, has displayed an improved power stroke. Eleven of his 18 hits this spring were for extra bases.

He expanded his versatility to include third base and right field. All of those factors helped the 23-year-old Venezuelan win a bench role.

"He just has great instincts for the game," Amaro said, "and we have a great deal of respect for what he can bring to the table for us."

The Phillies had already committed $850,000 to Frandsen, who had no minor-league options left. Betancourt's advantage was his ability to play shortstop, although his proficiency there has waned. He could have made as much as $1.4 million with the Phillies had they purchased his contract. Amaro said he attempted to trade Betancourt but the few teams interested balked at the last moment.

From 2007-11, only Derek Jeter played more games at shortstop than Betancourt. But Betancourt's .288 on-base percentage was the second-lowest in the majors among all players with at least 2,000 plate appearances during that span.

Betancourt pushed his name into consideration with a torrid spring. He hit .447 (21 for 47) in 51 plate appearances. That will probably earn him a major-league job, just not in Philadelphia.

Extra bases

For the second straight day, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard bashed back-to-back home runs. They were hit off Boston's Noe Ramirez, who pitched at single A in 2012. . . . Cliff Lee allowed six runs (four earned) in 51/3 innings on a windy day. He struck out seven. . . . The Phillies traded pitching prospect Julio Rodriguez to Baltimore for Ronnie Welty, a 25-year-old outfielder who has not played above double A. Welty hit 13 home runs in 213 at-bats last season, including eight at double-A Bowie.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow @magelb on Twitter.

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