SARASOTA, Fla. -- With Chase Utley on the shelf and the recently waived Luis Castillo set to hit the open market after clearing on Sunday, there's been plenty of talk that perhaps Philadelphia could be the veteran second baseman's next stop.
That would create an added wrinkle into what has been a very spirited competition for infield slots this spring. With Wilson Valdez slated to be the starter on Opening Day as of now, a quartet of others has been battling it out for two utility/backup spots.
Most of them have risen to the challenge. Josh Barfield was hitting .393 heading into Saturday afternoon's game against the Orioles, and Pete Orr was at .344. Michael Martinez (.310) and Delwyn Young (.304) also performed well.
"I feel the guys here have come in hungry," said Barfield, who started at second against the Orioles while Orr played third. "Everyone's come in and played well, kind of has that chip on his shoulder, and wants to go out and play. Whatever they do, whether it's one of us or they go out and get somebody, I feel like this team is still going to be all right."
Considering how well the quartet has played -- not to mention Valdez's .459 -- the question could be raised as to why the Phillies would want to kick the tires on a player like Castillo in the first place. It also could be a distraction to those already here who feel they've done plenty to prove they deserve one of those spots, but Barfield is simply keeping his head down and concentrating on what he's doing, not on what others are saying.
"I'm focused," Barfield said. "I came here to play my game, do what I can on the field. The front office is going to do whatever they feel best suits the team. You can't control it, you can only go out and play your game."
Mathieson says he's competing with himself
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Scott Mathieson and David Herndon shagged flies here at Ed Smith Stadium on Saturday afternoon, each enjoying time with a teammate. The opportunities for them to do that together might be running short.
The two right-handers are now on a shorter list of those competing for a spot in the Phillies' bullpen when the team breaks camp. Mathieson helped his case by throwing a perfect inning against the Orioles on Saturday as the competition continued.
Technically, Mathieson, Herndon, Baez, Antonio Bastardo, Kyle Kendrick and Mike Zagurski are fighting for three jobs. The contracts of Baez and Kendrick, however, make it more likely that those two will make the roster. That leaves the other four to battle for one spot.
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"I really don't look at it like I'm competing against somebody else for a spot," said Mathieson, who had a 2.57 ERA in seven relief innings prior to throwing on Saturday. "I'm competing with myself. I'm trying to create a spot for myself. I'm not trying to take anybody else's spot. I want to prove I'm good enough to pitch. You pitch well enough, it doesn't matter what someone else is doing, you're going to get an opportunity, I feel."
Mathieson, now 27, had two opportunities to pitch out of the Phillies' bullpen last year, once in June and again in September. Neither appearance went particularly well, as he allowed two earned runs in the first outing and an unearned one in the second.
Previously a solid starting pitching prospect, Mathieson underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2006, not long after getting his first call to the Majors. He needed a second Tommy John surgery two years later. Getting to Philadelphia last year, however briefly, was a huge accomplishment, but he isn't interested in that being the end of the story.
"Just getting back up there, it was my first time back up in four years, since my surgery," said Mathieson, who closed for Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year and saved 26 games. "It was a nice thing, to get up. I was disappointed in the results. Coming into Spring Training, it gave me the taste again, renewed the fire. I want to be here. Pitching all last year, I feel I have the stuff to pitch up here. I just have to prove to everyone else I do.
"I'm trying to go out there and prove that my offspeed pitches will be effective this year, just going on from what I did last year. Hopefully, it will play out."
Job of Phils' everyday right fielder still to be won
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Heading into Spring Training, the Phillies expected to have competition for playing time in right field. That's proving to be true, but not exactly with the same personnel as initially thought.
Top prospect Domonic Brown was going to battle Ben Francisco for the job, but the landscape changed when Brown broke his right hand. Francisco has been doing a nice job, hitting .326 this spring even after an 0-for-4 day in Saturday's 7-5 win over the Orioles. But the job is not his and his alone. John Mayberry Jr. could see some time there, and manager Charlie Manuel wouldn't rule out Ross Gload, either. At this point it doesn't seem as though the Phillies will head into the regular season with an everyday right fielder.
"Right now I'd say [it's] more likely we'll have to have a mix," Manuel said. "That doesn't mean someone can't claim the job. Right now, Francisco and Mayberry are both hitting the ball good."
Mayberry has had a tremendous spring, and hit his fifth homer of the spring on Saturday. It was his second home run against a right-handed pitcher, something Manuel had said he wanted to see Mayberry do more this year. Mayberry's also been playing a lot more first base than outfield of late, but that's not any indication as to where he'll see most of his time in 2011.
"I want to see [Mayberry] at first base," Manuel said. "I know he can play right field. At the same time, I will use him some more out there. I'll play Gload out there a little bit more, too. I don't want to start playing Gload a lot of games straight in a row. I want to break him in, get him used to playing."
Gload has played two games in right this spring and has seen time over the course of his career at first base and both outfield corners. He's having a strong Grapefruit League as well, hitting .381 after his 1-for-4 performance on Saturday. He also offers something Francisco and Mayberry do not: a left-handed bat.
"He can get some playing time there," Manuel said. "Gload can hit. He can give you good at-bats."
Does that mean, then, that even though Francisco and Mayberry have been getting most of the playing time in right this spring, Gload could get an Opening Day start with the Phillies facing Astros right-hander Brett Myers?
"I don't know what I might do," Manuel said. "I do a lot of strange things sometimes. I'm not saying I won't. I could. I'm not saying I wouldn't do that. We'll see."