Phils not worried by Ibanez's struggles
Outfielder picking up extra at-bats in Minor League games
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Raul Ibanez gets the itch to pick up a bat and start hitting baseballs in December.
It gives him a couple months of hitting before Spring Training begins.
It is a routine that has worked, but it is a routine he had to break this offseason while recovering from sports hernia surgery. Ibanez had surgery five days following the 2009 World Series, and he spent most of his offseason getting himself back into shape. He could not begin swinging a bat until mid-January.
So the poor spring Ibanez has had might be understandable.
"Not acceptable," Ibanez said during Wednesday's 8-0 loss to the Braves at Champion Field.
Ibanez, who went 0-for-2 with a walk against the Braves, is hitting .108 (4-for-37) with one home run, one RBI, four walks and 10 strikeouts this spring. He had three hits in eight at-bats shuttling between two Minor League Spring Training games Tuesday at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla., but clearly Ibanez is trying to get locked in before the season starts April 5 against the Nationals at Nationals Park.
"He's having trouble finding his timing," manager Charlie Manuel said. "When he gets it, you'll see. It's hard to explain. Sometimes you have a hard time really finding your swing. And you try, and you try, and you try, and it seems like forever you're not hitting. The worst thing you can do is really start thinking about digging a big hole for yourself. All of a sudden, one day you might walk out there and a guy throws a ball and you hit a couple right on the nose, and you're right back to square one and you start hitting good again. I've got all the faith in the world in him. I know he can hit."
2010 Spring Training - Philadelphia Phillies
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Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Manuel used Aaron Rowand as an example of Spring Training struggles past. Rowand hit just .161 (10-for-62) with one home run and six RBIs in Spring Training 2007. He hit .309 and set career highs with 27 homers and 89 RBIs during the regular season, helping him land a five-year, $60 million contract with the San Francisco Giants.
Manuel recalls how team personnel worried plenty about Rowand's spring and how it might translate into a bad season.
Turns out they worried about nothing.
Maybe Ibanez's spring will be quickly forgotten, although it is interesting to note that he typically puts up very good Spring Training numbers. Ibanez became a full-time player for the first time with the Kansas City Royals in 2002. He hit .286 (20-for-70) with three homers and 12 RBIs that spring. He hit .294 with 24 homers and 103 RBIs in the regular season.
A look at Ibanez's previous springs as a full-time player:
2003: He hit .290 (20-for-69) with no homers and 12 RBIs in Spring Training, and .294 with 18 homers and 90 RBIs in the regular season.
2004: He hit .415 (27-for-65) with two homers and 18 RBIs in Spring Training, his first season with Seattle. He hit .304 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs in the regular season.
2005: He hit .356 (31-for-87) with four homers and 27 RBIs in Spring Training, and .280 with 20 homers and 89 RBIs in the regular season.
2006: He hit .443 (17-for-61) with five homers and 13 RBIs in Spring Training, and .289 with 33 homers and 123 RBIs in the regular season.
2007: He hit .444 (20-for-45) with five homers and 14 RBIs in Spring Training, and .291 with 21 homers and 105 RBIs in the regular season.
2008: He hit .256 (11-for-43) with one homer and 12 RBIs in Spring Training, and .293 with 23 homers and 110 RBIs in the regular season.
2009: Ibanez hit .310 (26-for-84) with two homers and 15 RBIs in Spring Training, and hit .272 with a career-high 34 homers and 93 RBIs in the regular season.
"I've had springs before when I've been really good, and then April 1 rolls around and I'm like, 'What happened?'" he said.
Maybe the recovery from surgery is at play. Maybe he needs to make up for lost time. Getting extra at-bats in Minor League games could help. Ibanez said he had never done that before, but he remembers Edgar Martinez often doing that late in the spring.
"He liked it," Ibanez said. "I liked it."
Ibanez reports progress. He said Wednesday he thinks he is seeing the ball better.
"I saw the ball well," he said. "It's coming. ... I have more time than I think. I'm rushing. I'm not rushing anymore. It's good. It's a good thing. [Hitting coach] Milt [Thompson] said to me last year and this year, too, 'You want to be good the last week.'"
The Phillies return to Philadelphia on April 1 after a Grapefruit League game against the Pirates at Bright House Field. That last week is almost here.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.