Coste Continues To Struggle

Chris Coste is an inspiration. His story of hanging around in the minors until finally reaching the major leagues in 2006 at the age of 33. Now, Coste may have as much trouble staying in the majors as he did reaching the majors because of recent struggles.

It should be noted that a team could do much worse than to have Chris Coste as their backup catcher. At least with Coste, you get a guy who knows the game and will give you an honest effort every time out there.

The 2009 season hasn't been so kind to Coste though. Through the first 17 games of the season, Coste is hitting just .182, which especially hurts because of the injury to Carlos Ruiz. Actually, Coste has just two more at bats now than he did at this point last season, but a year ago, he was hitting .361 for the Phillies, almost double what he's hitting now.

At the plate, Coste seems to be lost at times. His swings look almost bizarre at times and he lacks any semblance of smoothness in his stroke.

In Sunday's game, he and Jamie Moyer seemed to be on different pages at various times in the game, with Moyer calling Coste out to the mound at one point and looking almost frustrated by his catcher. Even then, Coste went back behind the plate and Moyer had to shake him off a couple more times before the two were in sync.

Then, came a botched bunt play, where Coste - with the Phillies holding a four-run lead - tried to make a risky throw to second to gun down the runner rather than taking the sure out at first base. That runner wound up scoring with two outs in the inning and he wouldn't have scored had Coste gotten the sure out at first on the play.

In the grand scheme of things, Coste doesn't get too much exposure, because of Ruiz, but if trouble strikes, Coste is exposed. Lou Marson is a good prospect and will be a strong major league catcher someday, but he's not quite prepared for everyday duty at the major league level just yet. Charlie Manuel has already said that when Ruiz is activated - which could be any day now - Marson heads back to Lehigh Valley and Coste heads back to the bench.

If Ruiz were to be lost for a long time, the Phillies may be forced to search outside the organization for an everyday catcher. With Marson not quite ready, Coste vulnerable to being overexposed and no other major league ready catchers worth mentioning in the organization, a trade would be necessary.

The Phillies do have veteran Paul Hoover at Lehigh Valley. After a hot start when Hoover took over for Marson, including a seven-game hitting streak that saw him hit .346 (9-for-26), Hoover has cooled off and is hitting .250 for the IronPigs. He's a career .230 major league hitter, who could conceivably take over as a backup, but wouldn't be adequate as a starting catcher.

By this time next season, and possibly sooner, Marson will be ready to take over the reins and run the Phillies club. In fact, the Phillies may well face an off-season dilemma on what to do behind the plate if Marson has a big season at Triple-A and Ruiz puts up good numbers for the big league club. It's likely that one of them could be traded, unless the Phillies feel that Marson either needs more work at the Triple-A level or could be well served by serving as Ruiz' backup catcher with the big league club.

Whatever choices lie ahead, it's not out of the question that the Phillies will also face a choice on what to do with Chris Coste. He's a fan and clubhouse favorite, who has gained a lot of respect from his teammates, but he'll have to play better than he's shown thus far and prove that his skills haven't diminished if he's going to stick with the club long-term.

Chris Coste's career stats

Year
G
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
AVG
OBP
SLG
2006
65
198
25
65
14
0
7
32
10
31
.328
.376
.505
2007
48
129
15
36
3
0
5
22
4
20
.279
.311
.419
2008
98
274
28
72
17
0
9
36
16
51
.263
.325
.423
2009
13
33
2
6
4
0
0
5
3
9
.182
.270
.303
Totals
224
634
70
179
38
0
21
95
33
111
.282
.335
.442

Stats provided by Baseball-Reference.com



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