PHILADELPHIA -- Juan Pierre started in left field for the Phillies on Monday for the third time in four games, begging the question of whether the veteran may be ahead of John Mayberry for the regular job going into the season.
"I think [Mayberry] is going to have a chance to become a regular player," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Ruben [Amaro Jr., general manager] and I talked about that."
Mayberry, the presumed heir to Raul Ibanez's spot, batted .273 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs over 104 games for the Phillies in 2011.
"I think from how he played last year, I think he has earned a right to do that," Manuel said. "He may not be an everyday starter starting out, but he's going to play a lot and he'll be given every chance in the world to be an everyday player."
Mayberry entered Monday's game against the Pirates batting .200 with one home run and nine RBIs this spring.
"Because he struggled in Spring Training, that doesn't mean a whole lot to me because there are going to be times during the regular season he will be struggling," Manuel said. "I used to have to sit Jayson Werth and Pat Burrell. Jim Thome has struggled in his career, but that's the way you get through those things.
"An everyday player has to handle everything physically, and slumps and errors and everything, that's the way I look at it. It's up to him to hold that spot, too. That's shows you have become a regular player."
Mayberry came to the plate with an insurance run at third in the seventh inning of Monday's 4-3 win over the Pirates, and popped out. With one exhibition to go, it would appear Mayberry will welcome the fresh start of the regular season, whether or not he is in the starting lineup Thursday in Pittsburgh.
It is presumed that with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley out indefinitely, the power that Mayberry can provide will give him every opportunity to prove he can be the left fielder. But Manuel also talked about the need to manufacture runs, which is what has brought Pierre to Philadelphia for a 12th Major League season of fine table-setting.
Thus in the manager's meritocracy, an Opening Day start in Pittsburgh on Thursday means just that.
Thome to be used carefully at first base
PHILADELPHIA -- While waiting for Ryan Howard to return, manager Charlie Manuel doesn't plan on ruining Jim Thome's value to the Phillies by exhausting him unnecessarily at first base.
"He hasn't played [first] in four or five years," Manuel said. "[After] six innings he's going to get a little sore.
"When you are playing you use more energy, work harder, than you really realize. Two or three days in a row, that's not going to happen. If we can play him 20 games ... more than that, we will have to wait and see."
Thome was batting .257 with no home runs and six RBIs in 15 spring games entering Monday. He played first in four of those contests.
"If he can get 200 at-bats, that will keep him sharp," Manuel said. "He had 15 home runs in 200 at bats last year. I'm not saying he is going to hit 15 home runs, but if he plays 20 games and he hits [as the DH] in the Interleague games, that's at least 100 at-bats we can find for him."
Manuel hardly expects Thome, 41, who had all but decided to retire before getting the offer to reprise his happy three years in Philadelphia, to campaign for more more playing time. Even if Phillies fans showed Thome the love Monday night with a standing ovation before he struck out against the Pirates' Jason Grilli as a fifth-inning pinch-hitter.
"He's very positive," Manuel said. "When we wanted to add him to the team it was one of the things we thought about.
"He keeps players loose. And I think when he swings the bat they watch, they enjoy that, because he has been around for a long time."
Sans stars, Phils offense must be inventive
PHILADELPHIA -- Necessity can be the mother of invention, so Charlie Manuel says during the indefinite absences of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
The Phillies manager will have to be as inventive as he can be once the real games start.
"I think I know when to bunt," Manuel said, smiling. "If I don't, something is wrong and maybe they had better look around."
Without his pair of stars in the lineup, Manuel knows his club may need to rely on small ball from time to time.
"You have look at who we got, and that definitely makes it more rewarding when those players come through for you," he said. "A bunt or a squeeze, that is rewarding. And I take it as a challenge.
"The last couple of years we have had more guys hurt and had quite a few lineups, but we could have more this year. More different style lineups too."
Jay Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.