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Utley's injury raises competition for reserve roles

Utley's injury raises competition for reserve roles

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Utley's injury raises competition for reserve roles
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Chase Utley has just 17 days to get ready for Opening Day.

If it sounds like it would take a miracle, it would.

Bet on Utley opening the season on the 15-day disabled list. He has patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation in his right knee. He took batting practice Tuesday at Bright House Field, but remains unable to run or take fielding practice.

Wilson Valdez is expected to be the Phillies' Opening Day second baseman.

Utley's injury and Valdez's elevated role means the Phils' bench will have a different look April 1.

Nobody has said it, but Ben Francisco is expected to be the Opening Day right fielder. Ross Gload, John Mayberry Jr. and Brian Schneider are locks to make the team, leaving four infielders competing for two or possibly three bench jobs.

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Two bench jobs are available if Philadelphia carries 12 pitchers, which manager Charlie Manuel said last week he preferred. But with five starting pitchers able to pitch deep into games on a consistent basis, the club could carry 11 pitchers.

Here is a look at the top candidates for the final two bench spots, assuming Utley opens the season on the DL, the Phils carry 12 pitchers and Placido Polanco's hyperextended left elbow is nothing serious:

Josh Barfield: He has hit .417 (10-for-24) with two doubles, one triple and three RBIs in 11 Grapefruit League games. He has played 284 big league games at second base, but also can play third. The Phillies might give him a look in the outfield to show his versatility. "He can run, too," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.

Michael Martinez: He has shown at times he can handle the big leagues, but also has shown his inexperience. Martinez has hit .306 (11-for-36) with two doubles, one home run and five RBIs in 18 games. He is worth watching for one reason: He is a Rule 5 Draft pick. Like right-hander David Herndon last season, the Phils would need to keep Martinez on the 25-man roster the entire season or risk losing him. It is possible the club could open the season with Martinez on the roster, keeping other players ready at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Pete Orr: Orr is primarily a second and third baseman, although he has played some outfield this spring. He has hit .296 (8-for-27) with two doubles, three triples and two RBIs in 13 games. "He's a veteran guy who has been there before," Amaro said. "He's been pretty steady. He could play the outfield in a pinch." Orr has an option remaining, meaning if the Phillies purchase his contract and need to send him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, they would not risk losing him.

Delwyn Young: He has shown he can hit. He has batted .318 (14-for-44) with two doubles, one home run and six RBIs in 18 games. He has played pretty much everywhere this spring, but Young is not considered a defensive player. He is intriguing mostly because of his bat.

"All of the infield candidates have shown up very well to certain degrees," Amaro said. "We'll just keep observing all four of them and see who emerges."

It is believed Barfield, Orr and Young each have some type of out clause, but they do not come until much later in the season. So if the Phils send two of them to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, they would not risk losing them.

"We've got some flexibility with these guys," Amaro said.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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