Where does the Phillies bench stand without Will Middlebrooks?
The Phillies lost infielder Will Middlebrooks to a broken left fibula injury suffered Saturday when he collided with outfielder Andrew Pullin during a spring training game. Signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, the former Red Sox prospect had an outside chance of making the major league team as a role player.
With Middlebrooks now out for an indefinite period of time, the Phillies bench enters a very murky situation.
Pedro Florimon entered camp as the favorite to replace the departed veteran Andres Blanco as the versatile defender off the bench. Veterans Ryan Flaherty and Adam Rosales were also brought in on minor league deals with invitations to big league camp in Clearwater. Prospects Jesmuel Valentin, who coming off shoulder surgery, and Eliezer Alvarez have an outside chance of making the team.
Alvarez came to the Phillies in a trade with St. Louis for reliever Juan Nicasio last summer after Nicasio was picked up on waivers from the Mariners.
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Valentin nearly made the opening day roster last season, but lost the final bench jobs to Brock Stassi and Daniel Nava. A separated left shoulder suffered in May set Valentin back, but his ability to switch-hit will help him this spring.
Omar Infante, Dustin Ackley, Stephen Drew, and Brandon Phillips, among others, are all available on the free agent market. Infante and Drew make the most sense of those four based on their versatility and experience. Phillips is likely looking for a major league deal and has little experience outside of second base. More than 98% of his career innings on defense over 16 years have come at second.
Considering the Phillies are rumored to have up to nine pitchers in their bullpen the bench could be fairly short come opening day.
Manager Gabe Kapler has put an emphasis on versatility this spring, which includes Odubel Herrera taking ground balls at second base, his original position, and Tommy Joseph working at third. Joseph is on the roster bubble despite hitting more than 20 home runs each of his first two major league seasons.
Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams appear to be competing for the right field job with Rhys Hoskins moving to left. A discussion will also be had regarding the backup catcher job with Jorge Alfaro appearing to have sealed the starters role. Andrew Knapp and Cameron Rupp each have minor league options left, but the veteran Rupp might have the upper hand over Knapp despite being benched last year.
Most likely the Phillies give Flaherty, Alvarez, and Valentin more playing time with Flaherty having strong chances to beat out Florimon.