Manuel undecided on Phils' DH plans
Coste, Bruntlett, Taguchi are options vs. lefty Kazmir in Game 1
ST. PETERSBURG -- A day before the next biggest game of the Phillies' season, manager Charlie Manuel has one position to sort out: designated hitter.It's no easy selection. "I haven't decided on the lineup," Manuel said. "I have until tomorrow." For Game 1, Manuel likely will choose between Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett and So Taguchi, as he'd prefer a right-handed swinger against lefty Scott Kazmir.
Coste batted .296 with four homers against lefties this season but had been in a tailspin at the plate. Since a four-hit game Aug. 26, the 35-year-old has batted .132 (5-for-38). The team's backup catcher received one at-bat this postseason, against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.Can he judge his swing in batting practice? "Not really," Coste said. "I've had plenty of times where I've had the worst batting practice in my life and got three or four hits. I've had a lot of times in my career where I didn't play much and was able to get hits. Then, there's the intensity of being able to flip on a switch with the intensity of the playoffs. Whoever goes in there will have that." Bruntlett is a lesser option because he can play multiple positions and hit .254 this season vs. lefties. Taguchi has played in two World Series but is a career .219 hitter in nine total postseason series. Against righty James Shields in Game 2, Manuel will select between Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs and Geoff Jenkins. Stairs may have the edge in that equation because he spent a large portion of his career at that spot. Dobbs, who can play the corner infield and outfield spots, is also a dangerous pinch-hitter, like Stairs, who clubbed a game-winning homer against the Dodgers in Game 4. Dobbs batted .355 as a pinch-hitter this season. "I'm sure they've already discussed it plenty of times, and they'll do what's best for the team," Jenkins said. Since 2000, the DH on the NL team has hit .156 (10-for-64) with a homer, five RBIs and seven runs scored in the World Series. The AL DH has hit .224 (15-for-67) with a homer, nine RBIs and 11 runs scored. Who to put at that spot is an interesting equation in a World Series, where the rules change for each ballpark. The DH will be used at Tropicana Field (Games 1, 2, 6 and 7) but not at Citizens Bank Park (Games 3-5). "I think it's [an advantage] for the American League from the standpoint that it's more of an emotional thing," said Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, who also served as a GM for three AL teams, including a Toronto team that won the World Series in 1992-93. "Being a DH is not easy to keep yourself in the game, to keep yourself warmed up. The American League teams do it for 162 games a year. It's a heck of an adjustment." The Rays likely will platoon Cliff Floyd and Willy Aybar during the Series, while the Phillies will use a bench player. Philadelphia hitters went a combined 2-for-24 (.083) as designated hitters this season, though that came during a stretch in which no one was hitting well. Stairs, who wasn't with the Phillies during that malaise, has experience as a DH, with a career .260 average and 61 homers in 1,445 at-bats. "When you DH, you take the approach like you're pinch-hitting four times a game," he said. "My approach is that it's a pinch-hit at-bat and you try not to think too much about hitting."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.