Phillies want to see whether Sizemore is a good addition

Posted: July 14, 2014

ON AT LEAST three occasions during his briefing with the media before last night's game against the Nationals, manager Ryne Sandberg used the word "forward." The message was clear: The Phillies might have been 10 games under .500, but they were undefeated in their previous four games, and he was not going to let the discussion drift to any of the ugliness that had occurred before their surprising sweep of the first-place Brewers.

Sandberg is determined to make these next 3 months as productive as possible, and one item on his agenda is finding out whether Grady Sizemore can still fill a regular role in the majors.

While Sandberg acknowledged that the 31-year-old outfielder probably isn't physically capable of playing seven games in a row, we should be seeing plenty of the former star in the foreseeable future. Last night, he led off and played centerfield, two spots where the Phillies have struggled to get production this season. Ben Revere, the man normally tasked with those roles, has battled a sore ankle, but was available to play.

Over the next 3 weeks, the Phillies expect to receive plenty of phone calls regarding trades for rightfielder Marlon Byrd, who entered the day with 18 home runs and a solid .261/.313/.481 batting line. Two current American League playoff contenders, Seattle and Kansas City, are in dire need of a righthanded outfield bat like the one Byrd provides.

According to CSNPhilly.com, both teams are among the four in the no-trade clause in the 2-year, $16 million contract Byrd signed this offseason. While that certainly complicates matters, it by no means eliminates the possibility of a deal, particularly for a player whose only taste of postseason action came last season with the Pirates.

Of course, trading Byrd would leave the Phillies without a single outfielder giving them league average offensive production. Ben Revere has hit .303 since May 1, but his on-base percentage is a middling .338 during that span, not nearly good enough to offset his lack of power. In leftfield, Dom Brown has yet to have anything remotely close to a hot streak. He entered yesterday hitting .224/.275/.599 on the season, which is worse than the .216/.288/.324 line Sizemore posted in 205 plate appearances with the Red Sox before Boston designated him for assignment in mid-June.

In 11 games at Lehigh Valley, Sizemore hit .283 with a .353 on basepercentage, including one home run and one double in 46 at-bats. He struck out seven times and walked five. It was his longest stint in the minors since 2004, when he was 21 and ranked by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in the game. The following season was his breakout year in the majors. He hit .289 with a .348 on-base percentage, .484 slugging percentage and 22 home runs. From 2005 to 2008, he ranked first among major league centerfielders in OPS (.868) and third in home runs (107) and stolen bases (115). But his body began to betray him in 2009, when he missed 58 games total with an elbow injury that eventually required surgery. In 2010, he underwent microfracture surgery in his left knee, ending his season in mid-May.

In 2011, he appeared in only 71 games, hitting .224/.285/.706. He did not appear in the majors in 2012 or 2013, but resurfaced this spring with a strong showing in the Grapefruit League for the Red Sox. He started the year playing regularly in center and left and had four extra-base hits and a .395 OBP in his first 10 games. By mid-June, he was hitting only .216/.288/.324 with two home runs and 41 strikeouts in 185 at-bats, which prompted Boston to release him.

"I just didn't play well," Sizemore said. "Just inconsistent. I think it is one of those things. If you are gone for a long time, you are going to have ups and downs. Unfortunately, we were struggling and I wasn't playing well. So it just didn't work out."

Ruf update

Another player who could factor into the Phillies' post-trade-deadline plans is Darin Ruf, who is trying to find his swing after missing a month with a wrist injury. Ruf entered yesterday 2-for-14 with four strikeouts, two walks and no extra base hits in four games at Lehigh Valley, where he will be playing both leftfield and first base. Ruf missed the first month of the season with an oblique injury.

"He's a guy that needs some reps to get locked in and get his bat speed where it should be," Sandberg said.

Ruiz progressing

Carlos Ruiz was scheduled to hit off a tee yesterday, his first day of baseball activities since he suffered a concussion after being hit in the head with a pitch on June 26. Ruiz, who finished that game, was hitless in his previous 19 at-bats when he landed on the disabled list. The Phillies are cognizant of Ruiz' history of concussions, and they say that they will progress him slowly because of it. Ruiz missed close to a month with a concussion in 2010.

"There is always a concern, and that is why this was dealt with the way that it was," Sandberg said. "Obviously, he had the symptoms, no question about it, you know that is a tough thing to manage or to deal with, especially his position. And you never know if it is an accumulation of foul tips, so whatever it might be, so it is a very unpredictable thing. So it is concerning to one point and the other side he is real upbeat and anxious to get back on the field and do the baseball activities."

Lee's next outing

Cliff Lee (flexor tendon) is scheduled to throw in the neighborhood of 75 pitches Monday at Class A Clearwater, his second full rehab start since landing on the disabled list in mid-May. If all goes well, he could return to the rotation next Saturday in Atlanta.

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