Punto Moves Closer To Returning To Philly

The Phillies and free agent Nick Punto spent time together in two separate meetings Monday in Las Vegas. The Phillies could use Punto as a fill-in for Chase Utley to start the season and then as a super-sub all over the infield.

Nick Punto can trace his career in professional baseball to two organizations. He was originally drafted by the Minnesota Twins, but didn't sign. From there, he went on to be drafted by the Phillies and stayed in the organization for five years before heading off to - you guessed it - the Minnesota Twins. Punto was included in the deal with the Twins, sending Carlos Silva and a player to be named later (who turned out to be Bobby Korecky) to get Eric Milton.

In his time in Minnesota, Punto played at second, third, short and even spent some time in the outfield.

Punto's versatility would fill a spot that the Phillies could use some help in as a utility infielder. Punto is an above average defensive player and has a career average of .254 in eight major league seasons, but hit .284 with the Twins in 2008. The Phillies have Eric Bruntlett as a utility infielder, but Punto has better defensive skills.

Finding a utility infielder is especially important since Chase Utley is likely to miss some time early in the season after hip surgery last month.

Punto and the Phillies met twice on Monday and Punto has said that if he can't return to the Minnesota Twins, then the Phillies would be his next choice.

In addition to Punto, the Phillies have looked into Mark Loretta as a utility infielder. They have also asked the Colorado Rockies about the availability of Garrett Atkins, who they would look to acquire in a trade.

Also on Monday, the Phillies, perhaps ironically, talked to the Twins about outfielder Delmon Young. Young would fill the hole left by the potential departure of Pat Burrell, but would come with some baggage. Young was suspended for 50 games during the 2006 minor league season for throwing a bat at an umpire. After the 2007 season, the Tampa Bay Rays traded Young to Minnesota in a deal for Matt Garza, but Young ran into problems with manager Ron Gardenhire and has apparently already worn out his welcome with the Twins. It doesn't help Young that the Twins already have a crowded outfield scenario.

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