The Phillies manager entered Spring Training knowing he needed to find somebody to replace Jayson Werth in right field. Werth left Philadelphia when the Nationals offered him a seven-year, $126 million deal. He took his .889 on-base-plus-slugging percentage from the previous three seasons, which ranked 23rd in all of baseball, with him.
Manuel also has to find a way to replace Utley, whose .890 OPS ranked 22nd.
2010 Spring Training - null
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
The manager is concerned.
"We're not close to naming our starting lineup yet," Manuel said following Sunday's 8-1 loss to the Yankees in a Grapefruit League game at Bright House Field. "We've got to have somebody who can help us hold our own there. Those are two important spots in the lineup. Those are run-producing spots in the lineup."
Manuel has sounded particularly concerned about right field recently.
Ben Francisco is hitting .333 (16-for-48) with three doubles, one triple, three home runs and eight RBIs in 18 games. He has walked five times, struck out eight times and stolen two bases. John Mayberry Jr. is hitting .294 (15-for-51) with four doubles, five home runs and 11 RBIs in 20 games. He has walked six times, struck out seven times and stolen four bases. Ross Gload has hit .381 (16-for-42) with three doubles, one triple, one home run and four RBIs in 14 games. He has walked one time and struck out twice.
But Manuel hasn't seen enough yet.
"There could be a platoon," Manuel said. "If somebody gets hot, if somebody plays real good, they can win the job. It's the same way at second base while Utley is out. I don't know what other people think, but I can tell you what I think. You don't just give somebody a position. I've been in the game too long. I've had to work too long to get to the big leagues. I've had to work too long to stay. You've got to do something to be a big league player."
The assumption is Francisco has earned a starting job with the way he has played this spring, although there are concerns about his defense in right field. Manuel has discussed his concerns about the defense on three or four occasions in the last week, occasionally expressing those thoughts on his own.
"I need to see more consistency," Manuel said of Francisco. "I need to see him play in the outfield more. I haven't seen him play enough in the outfield yet."
Interestingly, Manuel has said Gload can earn some playing time in right field. It is interesting only because Manuel said during the Winter Meetings he would be concerned about Gload's defense if he played in right field over an extended period of time.
He spoke differently Sunday.
"We won a World Series with Pat Burrell," Manuel said. "I think Gload is a step ahead of him. I'm not knocking Pat. If he was sitting here I'd say the same thing. I'm not knocking Pat. I'm comfortable [with Gload]."
Is Manuel not positive Utley and Werth can be effectively replaced?
"No, I don't know," the manager said. "That's what we've got. I've always played with what we have and I always will. I'm hoping somebody will come up and give us some production. We've always been fortunate when we stick somebody in there, he does a good job. That's definitely a plus. It's just up to who wants it. Who wants to get it?
"There's a big price to play in the Major Leagues every day. A special player is an everyday player in the big leagues. I say that all the time. It takes a very, very, very, very special player to play in the big leagues. There a lot of second-division teams, and they don't have special everyday players.
"To win it takes even more. Winning is hard. Nothing is easy about winning. We've got to play defense and score runs. And right now, I am concerned about our offense in the sense we need balance and consistency. That's what we've had in the past."
But right now Manuel is still searching for it. He has 12 days to find it.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less