Charlie Manuel makes plea for a right-handed hitter

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At 47-28, the Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in baseball.

They allow an MLB-best 3.2 runs per game, and trail only the Yankees and Red Sox in run differential.

But this team could be better, and Charlie Manuel knows it.

The Phillies manager is making a rather public plea for help for his lineup, and a solid right-handed hitter tops his wish list, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.

“We could use a hitter in our lineup,” he said Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium. “At least one. We could definitely use a solid right-handed hitter.”

If the Phillies were to add a right-handed hitter, he would ideally be able to pick up some at-bats in the No. 5 spot in the batting order. Phillies’ No. 5 hitters are batting just .207 with a .609 on-base plus slugging percentage.

In fairness, Placido Polanco is a good hitter (though he has no power), Carlos Ruiz is serviceable enough at catcher (you’ve got to love the .370 OBP), and Shane Victorino is a switch-hitter who destroys left-handers (.362/.464/.787).

Also, the Phillies are 15-6 against left-handers this season, so it’s not like they’re helpless from the right side. What Manuel really should have said was this: “I really miss Jayson Werth. Without Jayson, we don’t have anyone with a sweet beard who can put the fear of God into a left-handed pitcher.”

Of course, Werth is hitting .172/.313/.344 against southpaws this season, so never mind.

The bigger issue here, as far as the Phillies are concerned, is money. Their payroll for 2011 is at $175 million, the second-highest in baseball and just $3 million shy of the luxury tax threshold. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room, and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is already on record as saying “you will not see a major move this year.”

Salisbury reports that Oakland’s Josh Willingham interests the Phillies, and San Diego’s Ryan Ludwick, Kansas City’s Wilson Betemit, and Colorado’s Ryan Spilborghs are also possibilities. Of course, even Manuel admits that the money issue could be “a huge problem.”

Still, it never hurts to ask. After all, Manuel asked for a pitcher last season and ended up with Roy Oswalt. Not too bad.

Mets invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.