02/16/09 6:53 PM EST
Ibanez content with any spot in lineup
New Phillies left fielder may bat fifth or sixth in Manuel's order
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
He will wear No. 29. He will play left field.
But where will he hit?
"As long as it's in the first nine lines, I'm happy," Ibanez said.
Ibanez seems perfect in the fifth spot, except the Phillies would have three consecutive left-handers in the heart of the order: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Ibanez. Manager Charlie Manuel preaches the importance of balance in his lineup, and this seems to be the exact opposite of balance. But Manuel doesn't seem to be too concerned.
"Not as long as we hit," Manuel said.
Ibanez is a career .268 hitter with a .322 on-base percentage and .411 slugging percentage against left-handers. Conversely, Pat Burrell, who the Phillies let walk so Ibanez could take his place, is a career .276 hitter with a .410 on-base percentage and a .540 slugging percentage against lefties.
"The last couple of years, he's hit lefties real good," Manuel said of Ibanez.
Should Manuel go a different route, Jayson Werth is the top candidate to hit fifth. He posted a .273 average with 24 homers, 67 RBIs and 20 stolen bases last season, and some in the organization think he is a 30-30 candidate.
"More than likely, I like Werth in a lineup like that," Manuel said. "Last year, I liked to hit [Shane] Victorino sixth at times and hit Werth second. I'd like to hit Victorino second if he can improve on his situational hitting a little bit. ... Our lineup will work itself out. They'll dictate what my lineup is."
Manuel frequently lifted Burrell for defensive purposes in the late innings. He said he expects Ibanez to be a nine-inning player, despite the knocks he has heard on his defense.
"You know what?" Manuel said. "I don't [care] what anybody says. I'll see for myself."
Ibanez signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Phillies. He signed early in the offseason, while other free-agent corner outfielders waited. Adam Dunn settled for a two-year, $20 million contract with the Nationals. Bobby Abreu settled for a one-year, $6 million contract with the Angels.
"I feel very blessed in this market the way things have played out," Ibanez said. "Not just the baseball market. The world market. There are a lot of people suffering out there. I feel very blessed and fortunate to have signed the deal that I did and play for the World [Series] champions. ... I watched this team. Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa, all those guys -- [Garry] Maddox, Pete Rose. I watched them growing up. It's kind of neat for me to put on the red shoes and the pants."
Ibanez already has acclimated himself to Philadelphia in one sense. An absolute health nut, he enjoys a good cheesesteak.
"I'm not going to lie to you, when I went to Philly, I had three of them," Ibanez said. "And they were good, too. I had two in one sitting."
Manuel on Cairo: The Phillies signed infielder Miguel Cairo to a Minor League contract Sunday. He reported to camp Monday.
"Cairo's been a pretty good player," Manuel said. "He can do some things. He knows how to play the game. He can handle the bat. He's a contact hitter. He can play different positions. He's been a good utility player the last few years. We'll see what he can do down here. We've got a lot of guys like that."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.