Inciarte making strong impression in Phillies camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ender Inciarte showed up early for the first day of Spring Training. He was worried that he might not have a locker.

So the Phillies' Rule 5 Draft pick, who's never played above high Class A ball, came in as early as possible and ran into manager Charlie Manuel, who offered Inciarte a cup of coffee, even though he admittedly didn't recognize Inciarte's name.

"You should've seen him. He told me, 'I didn't want to be late. I didn't want to be late for the first practice,'" Manuel laughed Sunday, when Inciarte went 2-for-3 with two runs. "He was worried. You could tell."

Manuel may not have known Inciarte on Day 1, but the speedy outfielder is making a pretty strong impression in camp.

Inciarte, who posted a .307/.376/.421 batting line with 46 steals in Arizona's system last year, has three hits in six at-bats, three walks and a stolen base, in addition to several impressive grabs in the outfield. Manuel praised Inciarte's speed, but more importantly his route-running -- direct and to the ball, no zig-zagging or drop-stepping.

"He will get to play more," Manuel said. "I'll use him in all three spots in the outfield, see how he can do. We'll see."

Inciarte is a long shot to make the Phillies' Opening Day roster. The 22-year-old from Venezuela lacks experience, even in the upper Minor Leagues, and the outfield competition is tough enough without him. But he has experience in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he learned from established Major Leaguers like Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra, and he's out to make a case for himself this spring.

"I came here just to play hard, and I don't know if I have a chance," Inciarte said. "I just know that I'm going to play hard, enjoy this game, have fun. They are the ones that make the decision. The only thing I can do is play every game as if it's the last of my life."

"I prepare myself to do the best I can, so if you prepare well, you're going to perform well. I'm seeing good results, and I'm working hard every day to do that."