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Phillies release Betancourt, most likely settling infield

Phillies release Betancourt, most likely settling infield

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies opened Spring Training last month with jobs available in the bullpen, outfield and infield.

They settled on their utility infielders Sunday.

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They announced after a 7-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Bright House Field they had released Yuniesky Betancourt as requested. He had hit .447 (21-for-47) with three doubles, one home run, 14 RBIs, a .451 on-base percentage and a .574 slugging percentage in 18 Grapefruit League games. The Phillies had signed Betancourt to a Minor League contract with an opt-out clause, stating they had to place him on the big league roster by Sunday or release him if he requested it. His agent Alex Esteban said Betancourt officially requested his release.

The Phillies essentially chose Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen over Betancourt.

"This was the evaluation, right or wrong, of what we thought was best for our club," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "Better to have this decision -- too many players -- than not having enough."

"It's a numbers game," Betancourt said. "I understand it, and I appreciate the fact that the organization gave me a shot to prove myself at the Major League level. I think I did a good enough job to get on with another club, but I'd like to reinforce the fact that I'm appreciative of the Phillies for giving me a chance."

While Amaro said the Phillies have not informed Galvis or Frandsen that either has made the team, it is a very safe bet both will be on the Opening Day roster. The Phillies have been looking to add an outfielder before Opening Day, but finding another utility infielder is not a priority.

"It was a very difficult decision," Amaro said about Betancourt. "He played great for us. We had some other guys play great, and we're comfortable with where we are as far as those players are concerned. There is still some time here to finish out how we're going to constitute the roster; nothing is really etched in stone. But with the guys that we have and the deal that we had to cut with him, to bring him here put us in this position, unfortunately, or fortunately, because it pushed some other guys to play well."

Galvis is hitting .281 (18-for-64) with seven doubles, two triples, two home runs, eight RBIs, a .303 on-base percentage and a .547 slugging percentage in 24 games. He had been the favorite of the three from the beginning of camp, even though he could have been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made his case for Galvis immediately, saying he could find him 200-250 at-bats in a utility role. Manuel praised Galvis' defense and his instincts and mentioned frequently the various ways Galvis could help the team win.

Manuel repeated those points throughout the spring -- adding that those 250 at-bats in the big leagues would be better than 500 at-bats in Triple-A -- whenever asked about Galvis.

It would have been a real fight had the front office pushed for Betancourt and Frandsen over Galvis.

Frandsen is hitting .269 (14-for-52) with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, six RBIs, a .302 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage. His strength is his bat, but he also is high-energy player and well-liked in the clubhouse.

"He's a pretty good offensive player who played well for us," Amaro said. "Particularly offensively, and we don't have a lot of -- so far off the bench, offensively he had to what we can do. He puts together good at-bats. He's shown us he can handle that."

In the end, Betancourt's outstanding spring numbers were not enough to overcome the Phillies' feelings about Galvis and Frandsen.

"Freddy is pretty much a plus defender wherever you put him," Amaro said. "He just has great instincts for the game, and we have a great deal of respect for what he can bring to the table for us."

"Frandsen's bat can get him in the lineup at times," Manuel said.

The Phillies tried to trade Betancourt before Sunday's deadline, but they found no takers. Teams interested in Betancourt might have preferred to roll the dice and take their chances signing him as a free agent rather than send the Phillies a player.

Betancourt should be on a big league roster soon, and the Phillies will know in the coming months whether they made the correct decision.

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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