The Phillies did us all a favor when they shook up their roster this week, and not just because it was simply time for Shane Victorino to move on. By making the moves they did, the Phillies made themselves worth watching again.
Not that the new players they got in trades or promoted from the minors are going to make a difference this year. This is a lost season, plain and simple, at least as far as pennants and things like that are concerned. But it could still be a very interesting season as we watch young players fill roles and maybe potential and hope that old players have at least one more magical season in them.
With that in mind, these are the players on whom Phillies fans should be focused the rest of the season:
Domonic Brown. The Phillies have been waiting for him to live up to his “untouchable’’ label for several years now and there is serious doubt as to whether this no-longer-a-kid can make it as an every-day big leaguer. He’s been given opportunities before and failed miserably, including last year when he was handed the right-field job when Jason Werth signed with Washington and Brown muffed it. He not only lost his starting job, he lost his spot with the big-league team and was once again sent back to the minors, where he stayed until the Phils called him up this week.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he plans on using Brown in all three outfield spots, but that would be a mistake. Stick the kid in left field and leave him there every day, no matter who’s pitching. Let him get comfortable in the field so he can be more relaxed at the plate, because that’s where he’ll ultimately be judged.
John Mayberry Jr. Another player who’s not as young as he used to be and still hasn’t proven he can be a consistent major league player. Like Brown, Mayberry was handed a starting job and couldn’t hold it. When the Phillies started this season, before it imploded on them, Mayberry was in the lineup almost every day, either in left field or first base. But he never found his stride (or maybe he did and it’s just a short one) and eventually Manuel lost patience and Mayberry became an occasional pinch-hitter.
Mayberry isn’t a great center fielder, but he’s the best the Phillies have right now. So, like with Brown, the Phils should put him out there every day against left- and right-handed pitching. Let him sink or swim, and if he sinks this time, don’t bother throwing him a life preserver.
Nate Schierholtz: He’s 28, so he should still have plenty of good years in front of him. Schierholtz says he can be an everyday player and the Phillies need to find out if he’s right. So, like Brown and Mayberry, Schierholtz should be the full-time right fielder unless he’s just terrible. And hitting a home run in your first game with a new team is a great way to start things off.
Kevin Frandsen: He’s been just an average big-league player who has bounced between the majors and minors his entire career. But it’s clear the Phillies can’t rely on Placido Polanco and his injury du jour, so Manuel should turn third base over to Frandsen for the rest of the year. He won’t, of course, if Polanco comes back this season, because Charlie is loyal to a fault. But the Phillies need to know if Frandsen can be the answer at third or if they have to go get one in the offseason. This much they know – Polanco’s run at third is at an end simply because he keeps getting injured.
Josh Lindblom: He’s been a pretty good reliever in his career, and a one-eyed man is king of the blind Phillies bullpen. No area on the team has been more of a disappointment than relief pitching, especially that all-important bridge between the sixth and seventh innings and the closer. Just like the Phils need to know if they need a new third baseman, they need to know if Lindblom can do the job in the bullpen and he should be Manuel’s set-up man the rest of the way.
Those are the guys who should be getting all the playing time the rest of the season. Uncle Charlie likes a happy clubhouse and he’s given lots of playing time to bench players like Ty Wigginton, Lanyce Nix and Juan Pierre. Well, it’s time for those players to stay on the bench except to pinch-hit, which is really what they were hired to do before injuries forced them to take a more prominent role. We already know what those veterans can do and even though they would help the Phillies win more games this season, this season is no longer about this season – it’s about next season and the one beyond that.
So, this is a golden opportunity for the players to show the Phillies what they can do and a golden opportunity for the Phillies to evaluate them without having to worry about pesky things like pennant races. It’s also a chance for their fans to see if there is indeed hope for the future.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.