As spring training sprints toward its end, the competition for the final outfield position for the Phillies has started to heat up. With the demotion of Dom Brown to triple-A, it’s now a two-horse race between Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik — players who are very much alike in many ways.
Pierre is the bigger name on paper. Remembered mostly from his time in Florida where he helped lead the Marlins to a World Series and, in doing so, became a household name. Pierre came to Philadelphia on a minor-league deal but most people expected him to be an all-but-certain lock for a spot on the opening-day roster. Podsednik, on the other hand, has come out of nowhere with a huge spring training that has many people in the Phillies organization wondering if he could be their answer for the left field/fifth outfielder role.
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Podsednik’s play has not been 100 percent unexpected because he also was part of a World Series-winning team before, and even though he has lost a step or two, he is still an above-average base runner who plays the game the right way — but nobody expected him to outperform Pierre to this point in the spring. Podsesnik seems to be stepping up to prove that he can still offer something to the game of baseball, and it has been a real thrill to see him show it.
Unfortunately, I do not see Podsednik making the Phillies opening-day roster for two reasons. Although Pierre is not having as good of a spring as Pods, it is hard to ignore the career of Pierre and his knack for not striking out. Strikeouts have been a huge problem for Philadelphia in recent years, and Pierre, who has struck out a minuscule 5.7 percent over his career, is an obvious fixer to that problem. In contrast, Pods has struck out over 14 percent of his at bats. Secondly, Pierre can opt out of his minor-league deal if he is sent down by the end of this month. Pods does not have an opt-out clause, so sending him down and still having him as an option in case of an injury call-up would be the most likely move.
The bottom line is both are a huge upgrade from what the Phillies have had coming off the bench in the past. Being able to bring a player off of the bench with speed, or a player who is reliable to get the ball in play when called upon, cannot be discounted. It has been fun to watch, and however this unfolds, I expect the Phillies will be thrilled with whomever they decide to keep.