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Sandberg considering shuffle in Phils' outfield

Sandberg considering shuffle in Phils' outfield

TORONTO -- The Phillies have some outfield problems with no immediate solutions.

Ben Revere misplayed a catchable ball in center field to start the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday at Rogers Centre, which sparked a nine-run rally in a 10-0 loss to the Blue Jays. Tuesday night, Jays third baseman Juan Francisco hit a fly ball to center with a runner on third in the 10th inning at Citizens Bank Park, but Revere, who does not have a good arm, couldn't throw out the winning run at the plate.

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Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg started Tony Gwynn Jr. in center field Thursday, saying he liked Gwynn's bat in the lineup against Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

But Revere's production offensively and defensively has been a concern, which creates the possibility that Marlon Byrd could see time in center field in the future. Revere's .600 OPS before Thursday's game ranked 163rd out of 186 qualifying players in baseball. The Phils' center fielders had a combined .646 OPS, which ranked 22nd out of the 30 teams.

The production has been worse in left field. Domonic Brown's .564 OPS ranked 174th, and Phillies left fielders had a combined .561 OPS, which ranked last.

"He's an option for center field, yeah," Sandberg said about Byrd. "He has experience there. From what I've seen, his first-step quickness and his reads are outstanding. And he has an above-average arm."

Byrd played two games in center field last season with the Mets and 46 games in center with the Cubs and Red Sox in 2012. He played all 118 games there with the Cubs in 2011.

"I've talked to him about it," Sandberg said. "And he likes playing center field. In my experience, a lot of guys that have played the corners and center field like center field the best, as far as seeing the ball and getting even better jumps. You can see the angles in front of you. The job that he does in right field with that -- with jumps, positioning and going back, going to the gap and coming in -- he's been outstanding."

Of course, playing Byrd in center only seems to make sense if Darin Ruf rejoins the team at some point and is producing at one of the corner spots. Otherwise, the Phils are moving a productive right fielder to center field, shifting concerns elsewhere.

Ruf, who has been on the disabled list since Spring Training with a strained left oblique, began a rehab assignment Thursday with Class A Clearwater, where he went 0-for-3 with a walk and played nine innings at first base.

"He's just a candidate," Sandberg said again about Byrd in center field. "I'm not going much further than that, long-term or anything like that. He's a candidate in center field."

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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