With the release of Joey Gathright the bench picture becomes a fair bit clearer. I do feel sorry for Gathright, I didn't want him to make the team but I do want everyone to show well. It is kind of unfair to judge a guy on 40 or 50 spring at bats. If a couple of balls find a hole and he beats out a couple of infield ground balls, maybe he makes Vegas or has an easier time catching on with another team.
So where are we on the four bench spots? John McDonald gets one. As much as I don't think he has all that much value as a player anymore, it is kind of reassuring to see him there. He's obviously a great guy, great teammate and a lot of fun. And as much as everyone rightly praises Roy Halladay for his work habits, I doubt there is a fielder that works harder on his game than John. He is the first on and last off the field for fielding practice, works hard in the batting cage, really seems to get the most out of his ability. In an emergency he can play anywhere, but then most spots it should be an emergency before he plays.
Raul Chavez or Jose Molina will be backup catcher. I'd imagine Molina, but I don't really see a difference between the two. Both are good defensive catchers, with good arms. The pitchers seem to like to throw to either of them. Niether could hit their way out of a wet paper bag. Molina is a couple of years younger. Cito seems to like Chavez and if the decision goes his way, that is a good enough reason for me.
Mike McCoy or Jeremy Reed will have a spot. McCoy's advantage is speed and that he can play all the positions on the field. It looks like he plays pretty good defense everywhere. Reed has more experience in the outfield, maybe has a bit more power. Both had a great springs, Reed drove in 10 runs so far, but in 21 hits has only had 3 extra base hits, all doubles. McCoy has hit well too, missed some time with a sore arm. Jeff Blair, in his column this morning, says that McCoy has 'all but made the team. I don't know if that is true. I like McCoy a little better but either choice is fine my me. Or, you know, the Phillies have released Brad Wilkerson. Just saying.
Randy Ruiz has the other spot. Clearly deserves it and some at bats. That last part I'm wondering about. This quote was in the Sun the other day, from Cito:
"We can’t play Ruiz in the field."
Bob Elliot then mentions a bad play he made at first that day. Now I'll agree he can't play in the outfield. Last week someone asked first base coach Dwayne Murphy if Ruiz could play outfield in an emergency and apparently he said no about five times. Other than I have the feeling that anyone could play LF in an emergency, yeah I don't want to see him out there.
But if we aren't going to let him play first, what's the point of having him on the roster? Let's face it, Kevin Millar played 386.2 innings at first, last year, and was terrible defensively. I've only seen Ruiz at first a couple of times, but he didn't look that bad to me. If we have Lind at DH and Ruiz can't play first, what's the point of having him?
We'll see, I get the feeling that sometimes Cito says these things to drive people like me crazy. In spite of what people might thing, Ruiz isn't the second coming of Babe Ruth or anything. He hit great last fall, but he chased out of the strike zone a lot. Pitchers when they get a second and third chance to look at a guy will start playing to weaknesses. What will show if he is a player or not is if he can make adjustments when they do. Ruiz had a good first month in the majors but remember that Kevin Millar had a terrific April, last year. Anyone can have a good month.
Not that I want to get in a long discussion about it (please please), but Ruiz should really get the 300 plate appearances Kevin Millar had last year. This is his one chance to show if he belongs or not, next year Brett Wallace has to play everyday and there really will be no room at the inn for Randy so he deserves this one chance.
Of course, this all presumes that Edwin Encarnacion goes north with the team. He has a week and should get 40 plate appearances in by opening day. With out a set back, he shouldn't have a problem.
One other note from Jeff Blair's column, he says that Echeverria (or Hecheverria, depends if you drop your h's or not) "could be in minor league camp as early as Friday once his visa's finalized". Yay.