Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Phils May Need Replacement For Polanco


The Phillies placed Placido Polanco on the 15-day disabled list when he was diagnosed with back spasms. At the time, Polanco was in an 0 for 15 rut and the trip to the DL provided some much needed time off.

With the all-star third baseman on the bench, Charlie Manuel looked for production out of two unlikely sources. On June 4th, the Phils stuck 28-year-old rookie, Michael Martinez at the hot corner. The natural second baseman finished his first series in the show with two hits in three games. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but who could expect spectacular out of an underweight, finally-made-it type of player like Martinez.

Manuel cycled him with another Dominican utility player, Wilson Valdez. The journeyman found his way to Philadelphia last year and after batting .258, the club decided to keep him around for another stint. Valdez has yet to find the success he had last year and since given extended playing time on July 5th, he posts a batting average below the Mendoza line for the month.

Manuel’s club is in a hole and with Polanco still sore two days after batting practice, the Phillies need to be prepared for the worst. Back spasms are an easy injury to come back from, but at 35-years-old a back injury could quickly develop into a more serious injury to the spine. Doctor’s said if the NLCS MVP’s pain persists, he will receive an injection to help control the inflammation.

Polanco will accompany the team to Chi-Town for a series against the Cubs, but whether he plays is still in question.

Although hesitant to rush back into action, the Gold Glover could provide another solid bat in Philadelphia’s lineup, much like he did down the stretch last September. After posting a .280 batting average and 25 RBIs in the second half last year, the Phillies have their fingers crossed that this setback doesn’t affect his production.

If the injury turns out to be as simple as back pains, great, but if the lower back injury is more serious, the Phils need to have a well-equipped Plan B.

Martinez and Valdez cannot be Plan B, both have combined for 18 hits since taking over the job earlier this month. Martinez’s four hits in a crucial game against the Braves bulk up that stat, but even with a great game once-in-a-while, these two are utility players not starters.

Even though the Fightin’ Phils are looking for a reliever before July 31st’s deadline, if Polanco can’t play they need to seriously consider picking up a quality third baseman as well. Now I’m not talking about Albert Pujols. I’m not even talking about Colorado’s coveted Ian Stewart. The Phils don’t need a huge name to stand at the hot corner, they just need who can get a hit every now and then.

The first name that would fit the bill is Wilson Betemit. With highly talented prospect, Mike Moustakas in the midst, the Royals are looking to ship Betemit out to the highest bidder. Coming off the best year of his career, the ex-Brave is off to a strong start. His .280 average could plug any hole in the lineup if Polanco spends more time than planned on the DL.

Another suitable short-term fix could be the Marlins’ Greg Dobbs, but his return to Philadelphia seems highly unlikely. However, the Phillies need a quick fix and who better to fill a short-term crisis than a proven utility man.

If the Phils are looking for a quality utility man, they need to knock on Arizona’s door and ask for Kelly Johnson. The Diamondback is currently playing second base and after a horrid June, has been able to post a.261 batting average thus far in July. With the D-Backs eagerly waiting for a chance to call red hot prospect Tony Abreu up from AAA, Philidelphia could be able to get the Johnson for cheap. The natural second baseman could be moved to third for the time being and used as a pinch hitter after the all-star third baseman’s return.

Whether putting Polanco back into the lineup or shopping out a prospect or two for a solution, the Phillies need to address this situation because Valdez and Martinez will only put the team’s division lead in jeopardy.

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