Bench Battle Provides Interesting Storylines

The Phillies bench seemed to be pretty clear cut for much of the winter. Then, suddenly, Shawn Wooten and Doug Glanville were signed and there wasn't room for both of them. That put the domino effect into motion and suddenly, Ricky Ledee, Jason Michaels, Chase Utley and even the two new guys were all question marks to make the club.

It seemed so easy. With six bench spots, the Phillies figured to have Todd Pratt, Chase Utley, Tomas Perez, Jason Michaels and Ricky Ledee. Then, they signed Shawn Wooten, basically to replace the departed Tyler Houston and everything seemed ready to go. All was quiet for a little while, just as was expected. Then, another signing. Doug Glanville was returning to Philadelphia and much like the entrance of the hunks on an episode of Average Joe, everybody looked somewhat disdainfully at Glanville and wondered what kind of plot twist had been thrown into the mix.

Was signing Glanville necessary? Not really, but it makes some sense based on who is running the club. Ed Wade was always a big fan of Doug Glanville and has always talked glowingly about his character and baseball brains. Larry Bowa came to value Nick Punto, a speedy guy off the bench and wanted someone to take over that job. That's where Glanville entered. It's funny how Bowa values a speedy utility guy, but saddled his speedy lineup guys with stop signs last season. Oh well, that's another story. For all of the ridicule that shows up about Glanville on message boards, he's not a bad utility guy. When he was here before, he wasn't ready to accept the job of a bench jockey, but he now sees the value that he can bring to a team in that capacity and relishes the job. Still, for this team, he didn't really fit and was filling a slightly unnecessary position. After all, do we need to get so specialized that we have designated pinch-runners?

Still, the bottom line is that Glanville is here, so how will this play out?

Glanville's signing gave the Phillies six outfielders who figured to fill five jobs. After all, if you go with three utility outfielders instead of two, that means you can really only carry two utility infielders. For most teams, that's not a comfortable way to do things. While Chase Utley's hot spring has made everybody believe more than ever that he has to make the club, the fact is that the Phillies needed him on the roster anyway. The real battle has always been in the outfield where Jason Michaels, Ricky Ledee and Glanville are fighting for jobs. Neither Michaels or Ledee are comfortable center fielders, so again, the Glanville signing at least makes an ounce or two of sense.

Keep another situation in mind. Left-handed hitters. You really need at least two left-handed bats. Utley and Ledee are lefties and Perez is a switch-hitter. If you put Utley in the lineup and take either Placido Polanco or David Bell out of the lineup – even for just one day – that means that you have no pure left-handed hitters on the bench and definitely no left-handed power to bring off the bench. Again, knowing how Bowa likes to manage, that doesn't seem like a comfortable situation for him. When you consider this, the Glanville signing seems to be working against the grain so to speak and certainly doesn't add to the bench in any way.

It might seem like the real battle is between Jason Michaels and Doug Glanville. That means the Phillies are deciding between Michaels, who has become one of the better pinch-hitters in the league and Glanville, who brings more intangible sort of things to the team than the contributions of Michaels.

The rumors have run across the spectrum of possibilities.

If David Bell is hurt, Polanco moves to third and Utley makes the team, taking over at second. That still gives you six outfielders, weakens your flexibility in the infield and takes a left-handed bat off the bench.

Jason Michaels has been getting a lot of playing time leading to speculation of a pending trade. There is likely a market for Michaels who could give a team a decent bat off the bench or as some believe, could step into a starting job with little difficulty. It would make some sense only if the Phillies were to get quality in exchange, which they might likely be able to do. The problem is what kind of player do you get? A young backup catcher wouldn't be a bad idea, but Wade isn't known for making deals that bring young players to the Phillies.

The latest rumor hitting the internet – and other published and broadcast reports – has the Phillies shopping Ricky Ledee. There is even speculation that the Phillies might simply put Ledee on waivers if they can't find any takers. Again, you get the feeling that if they deal Ledee, they're going to be shopping for a left-handed pinch-hitter before too long. Plus, if the deal Ledee and Bell is hurt, that means they either won't have a left-handed bat on the bench or they have to put Shawn Wooten at third instead of inserting Chase Utley into the starting lineup. From that angle, a deal sending Ricky Ledee elsewhere doesn't make a lot of sense and his value isn't that of what Jason Michaels would be.

Another possibility? Doug Glanville doesn't make the team. It would be a little unusual for a team to sign a guy only to let him go a couple months later. Consider this scenario though. Glanville was sitting out there as a free agent with no takers for a long time. The Phillies have always had a good relationship with him and he signed for very little money. His signing might have been a way to give him a chance to show what he can do to try to entice other teams who would change their mind about signing him. Don't be fooled. Word circulates about teams being interested in a player and there are "unofficial" conversations. In other words, a team has a pretty good idea if there are other teams that will sign a guy if they put him on waivers. If Glanville didn't have anything left, his playing days might well be over and the Phillies could then simply hire him for another job in the organization. It wouldn't be tough to see Glanville as a minor league coach or perhaps even working in the front office someday. Bottom line is this; Doug Glanville making the Phillies is not a guarantee. While he's not a horrible player and he's having a great spring, Glanville's departure would seem to make the most sense.

The Glanville signing is still peculiar. There are some reasons that might back the move, but there are a lot more that make it look like it has simply cluttered the landscape. Consider too, that Glanville (.306), Michaels (.318, 3 HR), Utley (.311, 3 HR) and Wooten (.317) are all having good springs. Ledee (.143) has been hampered by minor injuries throughout the spring. If nothing else that seems to show where the latest Ricky Ledee trade or cut rumors came from.

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