Trying to get by without their first baseman and second baseman, the Phillies aren’t receiving any help from their third baseman to date: Placido Polanco is hitting .179/.220/.205 in 39 at-bats.
Included in those 39 at-bats for Polanco are six strikeouts. That’s far from an excessive total for most players — Adam Dunn has already racked up three times that many — but it’s sure more than Polanco is used to. One of the game’s top contact hitters, Polanco has struck out once every 13.6 at-bats for his career. His rate this season is twice as high.
Now, 39 at-bats isn’t much of a sample size. But the Phillies were concerned about Polanco going into the season. There were even rumors they tried to ship him to Colorado, but that the Rockies didn’t want him because they weren’t convinced he’d last as a second baseman. Fighting injuries, Polanco lost 50 points of OPS last season, hitting .277/.335/.339 in 469 at-bats. His games played dropped from 153 in 2009 to 132 in 2010 to 122 last year.
The Phillies don’t necessarily need big numbers from Polanco. They like him as a No. 2 hitter, but once they get Chase Utley back, they could just go ahead and drop him to the bottom of the order, with Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Utley occupying the top three spots. They do need Polanco’s defense at third base: the drop off to Ty Wigginton there is huge.
So while replacing Polanco probably isn’t the answer, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if this is it for him as a regular. He’s 36 and increasingly injury prone. Transitioning to a reserve role might be the best thing for him in 2013.
On the other hand, he does have one point in his favor. According to Baseball Reference, his most similar player through age 35 is Julio Franco, suggesting he has another 10-12 years of baseball in front of him.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.