Fans are going to hate the Phillies’ plan for struggling bench player

Phillies manager Rob Thomson wants to play the struggling veteran even more.
Philadelphia Phillies bench player Whit Merrifield to get more playing time
Philadelphia Phillies bench player Whit Merrifield to get more playing time / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

Plenty of things are going right for the Philadelphia Phillies through the first part of the 2024 regular season. The Phillies are the NL's top team and arguably the best in baseball. Philadelphia has a 44-19 record, and before they set off for London were tied with the New York Yankees for the most wins in the majors.

However, not everything has gone smoothly for the Phillies. Outfielder Nick Castellanos has turned the corner after struggling mightily to start 2024. Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker missed the first month with an injury and has been unable to replicate Spencer Turnbull's consistency in the rotation.

Offseason acquisition Whit Merrifield has also underperformed in 2024. The signing appeared to strengthen the Phillies bench after his performance in spring training, but that hasn't transitioned to the regular season.

Fans are going to hate the Phillies’ plan for struggling bench player

Merrifield's highest slash line of the season was following the May 6 contest versus the San Francisco Giants. He had a .250/.304/.404 line and in the midst of what turned out to be eight consecutive games with at least one hit.

Since May 7, he has had only four hits in his last 15 games. The 35-year-old had a worse May than April at the plate and is slashing .145/.254/.242 in 62 at-bats since May 1.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson commented that the veteran utility player's infrequent playing time has played a part in his struggles at the plate. The Philly fan base may not like it, but according to the skipper, Merrifield needs to play more frequently to help him break out of his season-long slump.

"That's the issue," Thomson said when asked about Merrifield's funk earlier this week. "Just because he hasn't played, I think that's the problem. [I have] got to try and somehow try to get him some more playing time."

Before this year, Merrifield played much more frequently as a starter. He carved out such a role with the Kansas City Royals for over six seasons before the Toronto Blue Jays acquired him at the 2022 trade deadline.

He made the All-Star Game last season, playing for the American League representing the Blue Jays. The utility player finished 2023 with a .700 OPS and slashed his way to a .272/.318/.382 line in 145 games. Merrifield has not done well attempting to transition to a reserve role with Philadelphia.

Is the veteran showing signs of a career decline or is he not in the right situation with the Phillies?

With reserve infielder Edmundo Sosa playing extremely well following Trea Turner's hamstring injury, how will Thomson find time for a struggling Merrifield? The manager mentioned the possibility of playing Sosa in the outfield, per The Philadelphia Inquirer's Alex Coffey, to keep him in the lineup because he has done so well over the last month.

Merrifield does have an opportunity for more playing time with outfielder Brandon Marsh and utility player Kody Clemens each on the 10-day IL. However, playing time could become more scarce for the veteran once the Phillies roster is back to full strength.