If the Phillies are looking for some inspiration to help their beleaguered offense, how about a peek at the Reading Phillies. The R-Phils (28-36) didn't start the season with the Eastern League's most impressive offense, but they're sure turning up the heat as we approach the official start of Summer. In fact, with each flip of the calendar, Reading's offense has gotten hotter; April: .228 average / 3.0 runs per game. May: .243 average / 4.0 runs per game and a robust .308 average and 6.3 runs per game in the month of June.
There have been two changes to the R-Phils lineup that could help account for some of the more impressive numbers. First, center fielder Tyson Gillies went on the DL May 13, meaning that both Mike Spidale and Quintin Berry would be playing everyday. Since becoming the everyday left fielder, Spidale is hitting .295 (31-for-105). Berry, who is back to manning center field on an everyday basis, has struggled overall since Gillies injury .211 (24-for-123), but is hitting a much nicer .285 (15-for-53) in the month of June. Considering that Gillies was hitting just .247 early on, the upgrade is a nice change. Now, with Gillies back, the three will be back to sharing time in the outfield and on Gillies' first day back, it was Spidale being the odd-man-out, with Berry shifting to left field. It also looks like it will most likely be Spidale who will see the majority of bench time since Gillies is back, taking his bat out of the lineup on most nights, but giving manager Steve Roadcap a dependable bat to go to in key spots.
Another nice move for Reading has been the addition of first baseman Matt Rizzotti from Clearwater. Rizzotti got the call to take Gillies roster spot back in May and started hitting immediately and hasn't looked back since. Rizzotti is hitting a swift .311/.376/.566 with five home runs and 19 RBI through his first 31 games at Double-A ball.
If those additions played a part in Reading's offensive shot-in-the-arm, the addition of third baseman Cody Overbeck should be another strong bat for the lineup. Overbeck was promoted earlier this week after an impressive showing at Clearwater, where he was hitting .302/.380/.553 in 58 games with the Threshers. Overbeck has been one of the brighter surprises in the Phillies organization this season and odds are that he'll start to hit well at Double-A after some early adjustments that come with the jump up to Reading.
Before Overbeck's arrival, Reading was going with Brandon Pinckney, who was released earlier this week, and Tagg Bozied. The 30 year-old Bozied has been playing all over for Reading and is putting up his usual good numbers, hitting .295, with 11 home runs and 45 RBI, and had been seeing the majority of time at third with Pinckney struggling. Bozied has also played at first, left, right and as a designated hitter this season for Reading and it won't be difficult to keep his bat in the lineup thanks to his versatility. Before Bozied took over at third, Pinckney was hitting just .231 with Reading this season.
Reading's offensive revival is easy to see, no matter what stats you look at. With their nine runs scored against Bowie Wednesday night in an 11-9 loss, Reading has now scored nine or more runs six times this season, with four of those outbursts coming in June. Ironically, the R-Phils are just 3-3 when they score nine or more runs. Wednesday night's game was also the tenth time in 14 June games that Reading scored five or more runs. They have also scored seven or more runs in five of their last seven games and eight out of 14 games this month. Leading up to June, Reading had scored five or more runs in 17 of 50 games and seven or more in just seven of those fifty games.
So, with all of this offensive output, why are the Reading Phillies just 6-8 in June?
Reading's pitching staff has allowed nine or more runs in four of their 14 games in June, compared to just five times in April and May combined. Bowie's Brandon Waring hit a grand slam off Drew Naylor in the third inning of Wednesday night's game, which was the fourth grand slam of the season allowed by a Reading pitcher, tying them with New Hampshire for the Eastern League lead for the most grand slams allowed this season.
However, there's more blame than just that thrown on the pitcher's to go around in Reading. Wednesday night's game saw Reading add two more errors to their total and have now had multiple errors in ten games this season, with eight of those games resulting in two errors a piece and the other two resulting in three errors.