April 08, 2016
NEW YORK – Three games was apparently enough for Pete Mackanin, juggling the threesome of Peter Bourjos, Cedric Hunter, and Tyler Goeddel into his two corner outfield positions. He put utility infielder Emmanuel Burris in left field on Friday afternoon and pulled another player aside, too, before the game.
Mackanin asked Darin Ruf to head out to left field during batting practice on Saturday to become re-acclimated to catching fly balls. The manager needs more offense in a lineup that has averaged three runs a game following a 7-2 defeat on Friday that ran a season-opening losing streak to four games.
“We need some offense out there,” Mackanin said of his outfield production. “Although it’s not according to plan, we need some bats with some power. He worked out a little bit in the spring. He backed off, but I told him starting tomorrow to start working out there.”
Ruf said he didn’t get any work in the outfield this spring, and that it wasn’t even something anyone talked with him about.
This isn’t surprising, though, since first-year general manager Matt Klentak made outfield defense a priority this winter. Klentak wanted to protect his young pitching staff with strong defense, and boasted about having three starting outfielders that were all strong enough defensively to play center field if needed.
But then Aaron Altherr suffered a wrist injury that will keep him sidelined through at least August, most likely. And then Bourjos opened the season looking like the guy who entered Friday’s game with a career .379 slugging percentage.
The other three corner outfield options on the roster – Hunter, Burris and Goeddel – all played the entirety of the 2015 season in the minor leagues.
“Until we get the bats going, hopefully Bourjos will get on track, Hunter got a chance to do something, but until that time the fact that we need offense,” Mackanin said. “We need offense, as you can see.”
It’s only four games, but the offensive production in the outfield is troubling. Following Friday’s loss, Phillies outfielders were hitting .116 (5-for-43) with two extra-base hits and two RBI through four games.
Ruf, a first baseman who began getting reps in the outfield in the minor leagues in 2012, has started 80 games in the outfield with the Phillies in the last four seasons. He started 19 times in left field in 2015.
Maikel Franco was out of Friday afternoon’s lineup after taking a fastball off his left elbow a day earlier.
But the third baseman and middle-of-the-lineup cog said it was stiff and sore but otherwise nothing to be concerned about on Friday. Mackanin sat him on a chilly afternoon for precautionary reasons.
If the Phillies play Saturday night – heavy rain is in the forecast – Franco will be back in he starting lineup.
“He’ll be in the lineup if we play,” Mackanin said.