Righty bench bat still on Phillies' radar
Nomar is club's No. 1 choice if role can't be filled from within
PHILADELPHIA -- The common belief is that the Phillies will eventually find the right-handed bat they need for their bench.
But the possibility exists -- and it could be growing -- that the Phillies will fill that role internally or simply stick with what they have.
"It's quiet around here," said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. when asked about the action on the free-agent market.
Philadelphia's top choice to complete its bench is Nomar Garciaparra, but he isn't sure if he wants to continue his baseball career. If he does and the Phillies sign him, consider the matter resolved.
The Phillies' second choice was Ty Wigginton, but he just signed with the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Wigginton chose the Orioles over the World Series champions partially because he wanted more playing time.
"That's not the role we have here," Amaro said.
But if Garciaparra doesn't want to play, then what?
There are a few scenarios for the Phillies:
First, Phildelphia could continue to pursue other free-agent veterans like Moises Alou, Mark Grudzielanek and Rich Aurilia. But those players might be looking for more playing time and money than the Phillies can offer.
The Phillies kicked the tires on outfielder Andruw Jones, but he wasn't particularly interested because Philadelphia isn't the best place for him to resurrect his sagging career. Jones simply wouldn't get enough at-bats over the course of the season with Raul Ibanez in left field, Shane Victorino in center and Jayson Werth in right.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel likes to keep his starters in the lineup as much as humanly possible, and this season doesn't figure to be any different. That could play a role in the decision of other veterans looking for jobs.
"There's nothing imminent," Amaro said of those free-agent possibilities.
Second, the Phillies could look internally. Infielders Marcus Giles and Jason Donald figure to be the top candidates should that happen. Giles has experience, but he hasn't played in the Majors since 2007. Donald is a top prospect in Philadelphia's farm system, but would he be better suited playing more regularly at Triple-A Lehigh Valley than as a pinch-hitter for Manuel?
Of course, if the Phillies sign a free agent like Garciaparra or go with Giles or Donald, somebody would have to go. The most likely candidate would be Matt Stairs, because he makes just $1 million this season. Geoff Jenkins makes $6.75 million, plus he has a $1.25 million buyout on a club option for 2010, which means he would be much more difficult to move.
The third option is that the Phillies could stick with what they have. If the 2009 season started today with everybody healthy -- second baseman Chase Utley remains optimistic that he can be ready to play Opening Day on April 5 -- Philadelphia's five-man bench would include Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, Jenkins, Stairs and Chris Coste or Ronny Paulino.
There might come a point in Spring Training when Amaro and Manuel decide they're simply a better team with three left-handers on their bench.
But for the moment, the Phillies continue to wait for word from Garciaparra.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.