Opportunity for some as Phils shake up roster
Outfielders Brown, Mayberry, Schierholtz to get long looks rest of year
WASHINGTON -- The games must go on. The Phillies resumed play at Nationals Park on Tuesday night, just hours after the lockers for Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were cleaned out in an abrupt, but not entirely unexpected, roster shakeup.
Victorino went to the Dodgers, Pence to the Giants, joining the sort of pennant races that never developed for the five-time National League East champions this season. Those who were left behind now have two months to carve out a role for themselves in 2013 and beyond.
Not surprisingly, after trading two-thirds of an outfield that helped the Phillies win a franchise-record 102 games last year, that's where much of the attention will be focused for the final 60 games. After pulling the trigger on a pair of major deals, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. mentioned three players he would be watching closely for the remainder of the schedule ... and three of them are outfielders.
One is on-time top prospect Domonic Brown, who was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. One is John Mayberry Jr., who has struggled to regain the form he showed in the second half of the 2011 season. And one is Nate Schierholtz, acquired from the Giants as part of the Pence deal.
The other is right-handed reliever Josh Lindblom, who came from Los Angeles in the Victorino trade. Since both the Dodgers and Giants were playing at home, Lindblom and Schierholtz are expected to be in uniform for Wednesday night's game against the Nationals. Brown's flight from Syracuse was delayed and he didn't arrive in time to start Tuesday night.
The Phillies have several question marks that need to be answered before next season. They'll need a third baseman if oft-injured Placido Polanco, a free agent at the end of the season, doesn't return. They could be looking to plug several holes in the bullpen. And how much outfield help they need will depend to a great extent on how they assess what they see the rest of the way.
"This gives opportunities to guys that need to play, that we need to find a little bit out about," Amaro said.
Brown tops that list. He turns 25 next month. In 2010, he was named the Paul Owens Award winner as the organization's best Minor League player. But he's never had a full chance to show what he can do at the big league level.
Mayberry played his way into the Phillies' plans when he hit .309 with 10 homers in 34 RBIs in his final 55 games last season. He went into Tuesday night hitting just .230/8/25, starting just 55 of the first 102 games.
"You'll probably see Mayberry play more. you'll probably see Brown play. Those are the guys you'll probably see play more," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Mayberry said he welcomes the opportunity to play on a more regular basis. "I hope [that happens]," said the outfielder. "I hope to get in there and, whenever I do, I'll be ready to go in there and play as hard as I can."
Mayberry is probably the leading in-house candidate to replace Victorino in center field moving forward. If the Phillies conclude he's not the answer, they'll likely have to take a hard look at the free-agent market. Among the center fielders who are potential free agents at the end of the season are Michael Bourn and Torii Hunter. Corner outfielders who could be available include Josh Hamilton and Melky Cabrera.
Schierholtz was unhappy with his lack of playing time with the Giants and had said he would welcome a trade.
"I think sometimes the standard of my play is different from other players," he told the San Francisco Chronicle less than two weeks earlier. "We're all in this to win, but I'm as competitive as anyone. I came in with the expectation to play maybe a little bit more than we've seen. A weeklong slump kept me back on the bench for a couple more months.
"It's a tough hole to dig myself out of, and it kind of leaves me wondering if I don't have a future here. [Manager Bruce Bochy] told me he doesn't see me as an everyday player. He told me it's always going to be like that."
Manuel stopped short of saying he'd play Schierholtz regularly, but he indicated he'll get his chance to show what he can do.
"Do I think he can play every day? I think we'll probably want to find out that, too," the Phillies' manager said. "I think he can. I haven't seen him a whole lot. But I like this about him: He can pull the ball. Also, he hits the ball high in the air. I like that. Especially in our yard. He has a good arm. He can play a little first base."
Added Amaro: "He's going to get a chance to play. I don't know yet [if he can play regularly], because he's never been an everyday player, but he's a pretty good player. Again, he'll get an opportunity to play a little bit, probably more than a little bit, and we'll see what we get out of him."
It would be a step in the right direction if Lindblom shows that he can be counted on to add depth to a bullpen that was undermined by injuries to Jose Contreras, Michael Stutes, David Herndon and Raul Valdez, and the ineffectiveness of Chad Qualls.
"I'm excited about getting Lindblom in our bullpen because I think he's going to help stabilize us a little better," Amaro said.
Added Manuel: "The reliever we got is going to be important to us. He can pitch definitely in the seventh and eighth inning. That's going to help us. That should help us some right now.
And the Phillies might not be done yet.
Even though the Trade Deadline has passed, deals with waivers can still be made. Deals that would further rearrange the landscape for the Phillies who remain behind.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.