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04/21/09 8:10 PM ET

Ibanez settling in nicely with Phillies

Ranks among leaders in several NL offensive categories

PHILADELPHIA -- Raul Ibanez has offered the Phillies few surprises since the season started more than two weeks ago, and they consider that a good thing.

They thought he could hit, and he has hit. He entered Tuesday's series opener against the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park hitting .386 with four doubles, one triple, five home runs and 10 RBIs in 12 games. He led the National League with an .864 slugging percentage and 38 total bases. He was tied for first in homers and extra-base hits (10).

The Phillies considered him an average defensive left fielder, and so far, he has been. He has made some nice plays and nice throws, but also has misplayed some balls.

About the only surprising thing so far (and it has been a small one) is that Ibanez has proven to be a pretty good baserunner. He is not fast by any means, but he is smart on the bases, runs hard and has been able to take an extra base when the situation presents itself.

Not bad for a 36-year-old.

"He's obviously a solid offensive player," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "What has impressed me on the offensive side is that he doesn't give away at-bats. He has a plan of attack every time. You can tell that he comes to the plate with a purpose."

The Phillies signed Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million contract on Dec. 16, ending Pat Burrell's run in Philadelphia. The signing drew some praise, but some criticism as well. First, because of Ibanez's age. Second, because it loaded the middle of the lineup with left-handed hitters. Third, because some corner outfielders who signed after Ibanez signed for less.

Burrell signed with the Rays for two years and $16 million. Milton Bradley joined the Cubs for two years and $20 million. Adam Dunn signed with the Nationals for two years and $20 million.

Had the Phillies overpaid?

"If we had waited, we would have lost him to a deal that was much higher than what we paid," Amaro said. "I had strong indications that there were a lot of teams that were very interested in him."

The Cubs and Mets were teams that expressed interest in Ibanez.

"Anytime you get more than two teams interested in a player, it has a tendency to escalate," Amaro said.

But Amaro said the club signed Ibanez before it got to that point partially because Ibanez expressed interest in playing for the Phillies, who were coming off a World Series championship.

"Right from the very start, when we first spoke with him, it was pretty clear that Raul Ibanez wanted to be a Philadelphia Phillie," Amaro said.

And just two weeks into the season, the Phillies are glad he did.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com.im This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.