Pierre, Podsednik vying for job with Phillies
Boasting similar skills, veterans in competition for backup role
BRADENTON, Fla -- Between them, Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik have spent more than two decades in the big leagues. They have played 2,767 games and collected 3,056 hits for 11 teams.
Credentials aside, they are now battling for their big league lives, fighting for one job -- the backup outfielder's seat on the Phillies' bench.
As well as both Pierre and Podsednik are playing this spring -- and an argument could be made on behalf of either of them -- roster numbers would seem to dictate that only one of them can make the team.
"I guess it's possible they could both make it," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Friday. "But I would doubt it."
Right now, Pierre and Podsednik appear to be running neck and neck, which isn't going to make manager Charlie Manuel's preference any easier.
"It's a good battle, a very good battle," Manuel said Friday. "They're both playing well. They're both good players. We'll just see who's playing best.
"I knew the competition was going to be good. I've seen both of them play quite a bit. Now's the time for them to show what they can do."
Pierre and Podsednik were both in the lineup on Friday as the Phillies bowed, 3-2, to the Pirates at McKechnie Field.
Pierre, batting leadoff and playing right field, went 0-for-4, dropping his average for the spring to .250, while Podsednik, hitting second and playing center, was 1-for-3, boosting his exhibition average to .333.
Whom to choose?
It's a nice dilemma to have.
"I love it," said Amaro. "I love the fact that they're both playing very well.
"The more options we have, the more competition we have, the better our ballclub is going to be."
Pierre and Podsednik both have speed. Both are good baserunners.
Pierre leads all active players with 554 career stolen bases and ranks 26th all time. He has stolen 40 or more bases nine times, including a career-high 68 in 2010.
Podsednik's stolen base numbers are more modest, with 301 in his career.
Both signed Minor League contracts during the offseason, so money won't be a factor in the Phillies' decision.
Going into Spring Training, many felt the 34-year-old Pierre held the edge. Certainly, the Phils were intrigued by his statistics last season, when he made 152 starts and hit .279 with 178 hits and 27 stolen bases with the White Sox.
He was the toughest batter in the American League to strike out last season, and he led the league in bunt hits, infield hits and sacrifices. The left-handed-hitting Pierre batted .329 against left-handed pitching and hit .331 with runners in scoring position. Meanwhile, Podsednik was injured last year, suffering a stress fracture in his right foot. He played just 34 games, all in the Minor Leagues.
However, Manuel likes the quickness in the 35-year-old Podsednik's bat.
"He looks pretty healthy right now," Manuel said. "The last two or three days he's started running better and playing better."
But Manuel isn't tipping his hand.
"We'll see," he said. "We've got what,  games left? We'll see."
Manuel did reveal that he does not think choosing between Pierre and Podsednik is going to be his toughest decision of the spring.
"Getting our bullpen lined up -- that's going to be toughest," the manager said.
But that doesn't mean the decision between Pierre and Podsednik is going to be easy.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.