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March 28, 2016

Phils sign veteran outfielder Will Venable

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Prior to Monday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Phillies finalized their starting rotation a week before Opening Day.

During the game, they made another roster move that should help crystalize the final composition of the 25-man roster.

The Phillies announced veteran outfielder Will Venable has been signed to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. He is expected in camp on Tuesday when the Phillies play the penultimate game of their Grapefruit League schedule.

"He's going to be here playing for us tomorrow and we're going to get a look at him," manager Pete Mackanin said. 

But it hardly feels like the team signed Venable with the intention of sending him to Triple-A in the next week. The Phillies will open the season two outfielders short, with Aaron Altherr still out for the next 4-5 months recovering from wrist surgery and Cody Asche still rehabbing from a right oblique strain. 

Manager Pete Mackanin confirmed the obvious following Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Toronto: Asche will begin the season on the DL (the move is backdated to March 25).

Venable, meanwhile, could help stabilize an outfield that was set to begin the season with second-year center fielder Odubel Herrera, Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel, and defensive wiz Peter Bourjos.

"We'll just see what we've got," Mackanin said, not handing a job over to Venable just yet. "We're anxious to see what he looks like. I've seen him the past ... I know he's a good outfielder, he's got power, and he can run. We'll just give him three or four games to see what he looks like."

The 33-year-old Venable, who was released by the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, is a career .251 hitter in eight seasons with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers. The Princeton University product hit .244 with a .320 OBP, six home runs and 13 doubles in 135 games with San Diego and Texas last season.

Venable, a left-handed hitter, could be a favorite to platoon with the right-handed hitting Goeddel at the outset of the season. He's also a favorite to complete a five-man bench with utility infielder Andres Blanco, a backup first baseman (whoever isn’t starting between Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf) a backup catcher (whoever isn’t starting between Carlos Ruiz and Cameron Rupp), and one of the other outfielders competing for a job in camp, perhaps Cedric Hunter or David Lough.

"We want that coverage in the outfield," Mackanin said. "We'll make a decision."