The Phillies and their Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have a very similar look to their outfield alignments. Both teams have four players to fill the three spots and there's always some juggling to be done. The 'Pigs outfield features T.J. Bohn, Brendan Watson, Rich Thompson and Jon Knott and all four have had their moments this season.
Bohn spent some time with the big league club when Shane Victorino wound up on the disabled list earlier in the season. He had just three at bats and drove in two runs with a double against the Colorado Rockies, but was back in the Lehigh Valley before getting much of a chance to do anything more for the big league club. Bohn was on the Opening Day roster for Lehigh Valley and he's struggled pretty much since the beginning of the season and is hitting just .180 on the season. Manager Dave Huppert thinks part of the problem may just be Bohn putting too much pressure on himself. "He's too good of a hitter to be swinging like this. There's some talent there, but for whatever reason - pressure or something - he's not putting up the numbers," said the 'Pigs skipper. Even with the crowded outfield, Bohn has found playing time as part of the regular rotation that Huppert has used to keep all of his outfielders sharp.
Rich Thompson came to the Phillies organization during the season and started out with the Double-A Reading Phillies; a homecoming for the Reading born and bred Thompson. "It was great," said the 29 year old outfielder of his time in Reading. "It's a great place to play, with a great atmosphere and it's a great park to hit at," explained Thompson. Since joining the 'Pigs at the end of April, Thompson has been hitting pretty well and has added a tough style of play to the IronPigs outfield. With a little speed that he can use in the outfield, Thompson also isn't afraid to throw his body around to make a play and he does the same on the basepaths. Huppert called him "tough" and that's a simple way of describing how Thompson plays the game and it's a big compliment to Thompson. "I appreciate that coming from my manager. Every game, it's a compliment to put on the uniform and if I have to get dirty or run into a wall to win, I'll do it," said Thompson. Considering that he's approaching the 30 year old mark and has had just one small opportunity to play in the majors with Kansas City in 2004, Thompson is possibly hurt most by platooning since it doesn't give him a chance to show what he can do on an everyday basis. For him though, he's happy just to do what he can to win and is taking any opportunities that he comes across. "Hupp's [Huppert] done a great job with getting us all playing time. If you're hot, you're going to be in there. When Knott got hot, he wasn't coming out of the lineup and when I got hot on the road, I wasn't coming out of the lineup," explained Thompson. "And when everybody is playing well, we just rotate in and out and that's not the worst thing to deal with."
|Brandon Watson dodges an inside pitch. Watson started the season as the 'Pigs center fielder, but has shifted to play left field in the current outfield platoon situation. Watson had a 43 game hitting streak last season as a member of the Washington Nationals organization. (Photo: Philly Baseball News)|
Brandon Watson figured on being the everyday center fielder when the season started. He's played through some injuries this season and also spent time out of the lineup with an injury, but he's also had to adjust to playing different spots in the outfield and finds himself shifted to left field on occasion. Watson has played all three positions in the past and believes that it's an attribute that helps him. "Anytime you can play all three positions and learn them all the best that they can, it makes you more versatile. I would actually rather move around and stay fresh in all three spots rather than play just in center," said Watson, who made news last season with a 43 game hitting streak while he was a member of the Washington Nationals organization. The laid back outfielder credited his attitude with helping him through the streak. "Life is life and baseball is a great job and a great game and I feel like I'm fortunate to be playing. I don't put a lot of stress and pressure on myself and that helps, there's no doubt about that," said Watson as he prepared for a game against Norfolk recently. Watson also said that he's adjusted quickly to having different players next to him in the outfield and thinks that they have been a good addition to the club. In particular, he believes that Thompson has worked out well and he's come to admire how he plays. "He's a guy who wants to get to everything. He just goes full throttle all the time and it's great to play with someone like that. It certainly makes my job easier, because I know he can make up a lot of ground and I don't have to worry about getting to everything," said Watson. After playing in the majors on a couple of different occasions and posting his 43 game streak last season, why isn't Brandon Watson getting a shot in the majors? "That's a good question," said Huppert. "The only thing that he needs to be a Major League player is an opportunity. He needs to just get out there and be in the lineup and show what he can do over a longer period of time," believes the man they refer to as 'Boss Hogg'.
|Jon Knott has been a healthy addition to the IronPigs outfield. Ever since his arrival, he's been swinging a hot bat and getting solid playing time in the Lehigh Valley outfield. (Photo: Philly Baseball News)|
Then, there's Jon Knott. Like the other three outfielders, Knott has had a couple cups of coffee in the majors, but hasn't really gotten an extended shot. He spent part of last season with Baltimore and played in three games with San Diego in 2006 and nine games with the Padres in 2004. In all, he's played in 19 Major League games and has hit .194 in 31 at bats. Since his arrival in the Lehigh Valley in early May, Knott is hitting .380, which was a welcome addition to a team that was struggling for hits through the early part of the season. "It was amazing looking at the numbers on this team back then," conceded Knott. "I knew some of these guys and I thought, 'man, what's happening there?' when I looked at their numbers. "I've just been on a nice run since I got here. It's kind of weird, because I was scuffling for hits in Rochester and then I wind up here, on what's supposed to be the weakest hitting team in the league and I get hot," laughed Knotts. If hitting is contagious, Knotts was likely patient zero, the one that spreads the disease to all the others. He's also quickly become a fan favorite and is looking for a path back to the majors, just three months shy of his 30th birthday. "I try not to think about when or where, or even if it's going to happen," said Knott about returning to the majors. "I look at it this way. I was lucky to ever get there, even if it wasn't for a long time. It's not at all that I'm content with that, but I also know that I'm fortunate to have been there and if I keep playing well, I have to believe I'll be back," said Knott.
With the Phillies also having a crowded outfield, the chances of any of the 'Pigs players getting to the majors seems to hinge on an injury or possibly, a trade of one of the players now in Philadelphia. "You just never know if one of these guys will be up there," said Huppert. "I think any of them could help if they were given a chance and Bohn was already there this year. They just have to keep fighting for it, because something could happen almost at any moment."