Could Larish Help In Philadelphia?

The Phillies may need some help off the bench and there is no doubt that's one area that Ruben Amaro will hope to address prior to the July 31 trade deadline. If all else fails though, could IronPigs first baseman Jeff Larish provide some needed help in the big leagues?

They call him "The Statue". If you see video of Jeff Larish in the batter's box, you may believe that the video is frozen. There is no movement; no waggling bat, no swaying, nothing. That stillness approach has brought not just a nickname to Jeff Larish, but some success as well.

Larish, 28, has the distinction of having been drafted three separate times. First by the Chicago Cubs (32nd round) in 2001, then by the Los Angeles Dodgers (13th round) in 2004 and finally by the Detroit Tigers (5th round) in 2005. By the time Detroit drafted him, scouts believed that Larish would be a decent to above average major league player.

Just under three years after being drafted, the Arizona State product was in the majors with Detroit. He took over at the Tigers' DH and eventually found some playing time both at first base and at third base. His rookie season wasn't overly impressive, but it also didn't make anyone believe that he wouldn't develop into the type of player that the Tigers believed he would become. The following season, Larish's numbers fell and by 2010, he was on waivers and signed by Oakland, where he also failed to hit.

Over this past off-season, the Phillies scouted around for some minor league help, looking for guys who could provide some offensive help at AAA and possibly move into a utility role with the major league club if there was a need. They found players like Delwyn Young, Josh Barfield, Rafael Belliard, Pete Orr and Jeff Larish.

Young, Barfield and Orr battled for the final utility spot, with Orr winning the battle. Belliard signed late and was never a consideration for the Phillies roster. Larish meanwhile, was never really given a true shot to make the major league roster and was ticketed for Lehigh Valley all along. When minor league veteran and Lehigh Valley fan favorite Andy Tracy signed with Arizona, first base was wide open for Larish at the AAA level.

Larish has fit right in and has been especially hot lately, hitting .375 in the month of June. His torrid pace helped him to garner the IL Player of the Week honors and perhaps more importantly, the Phillies Minor League Player of the Week honors for the week ending June 5. During the week, Larish hit .478 (11-for-23) with four home runs and 12 RBI to go along with three doubles and a triple to post a 1.217 slugging percentage. That streak boosted Larish's average up to .259 and has him on a pace to hit a career-high 30 home runs with the IronPigs.

A quick look at the Phillies roster shows that the only left-handed bat on the bench for the Phillies right now is Ross Gload, who is battling a hip injury. For now, Gload is a one-dimensional player, who is unable to play defensively or even run the bases. He's limited to just swinging a bat as a pinch-hitter and needs help from a pinch-runner if he's successful in that role. Really, Gload should be undergoing season-ending surgery, but he insists he'll play through as best he can and the Phillies don't seem willing to seemingly take the bat out of Gload's hands, especially since he is one of the better pinch-hitters around.

Still, the Phillies have to consider getting another left-handed bat with some power that they can bring off the bench.

One problem with Larish is that he's primarily a first baseman. While the Phillies could use a back-up first baseman - Wilson Valdez would have to step in to give Ryan Howard a day off - the fact that Larish is somewhat limited defensively could be a deterrent. Larish has some experience as a third baseman and IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg put him in left field for one game this season, but that was the only time in Larish's career that he has played the outfield.

The major league track record for Larish isn't great, but at just 28, Larish may just be one of those guys who blossoms later rather than sooner in his career. There would be an adjustment for Larish, who would have to go from being an everyday player to learning how to come off the bench in a limited role and there is no way of knowing how well he would succeed in that spot. It is intriguing to note that as a major league pinch-hitter, Larish is 6-for-18 (.333) with two doubles and two RBI in 23 plate appearances. It's also interesting to note that while he's hitting .259 overall, Larish's average against right-handers is at .268 and nine of his 12 home runs have come against right-handed pitching this season. Those numbers are a mirror image of what Larish has done in the majors, hitting .235 with eight career home runs versus major league right-handers, while managing to hit just .095 with no longballs against southpaws.

Perhaps a role off the bench would be a near-perfect spot for Larish to fill. The numbers show that he has consistently hit right-handed pitching better than left-handers, so limiting his exposure to primarily righties could help to guarantee some success. He also garners all of his power against right-handers and seems to be relatively comfortable coming off the bench.

It's likely that Amaro can find a bigger left-handed bat on the market. Someone who has a more proven record in the majors, including some current success; names like Garrett Jones and Laynce Nix come quickly to mind. In the off chance that Amaro can't pull off a deal, Larish might be worth a shot.



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