New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies could get creative to find room for Darin Ruf on the roster

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By weighted on-base average (wOBA), Darin Ruf (.354) out-hit every Phillie except Chase Utley (.356). PECOTA, the projection system found at Baseball Prospectus, projects Ruf to be more valuable than All-Star Domonic Brown in 2014. And yet, most are expecting Ruf to start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

It makes logical sense. The Phillies’ outfield is secure with Brown in left, Ben Revere in center, and Marlon Byrd in right. First base is also spoken for with Ryan Howard. Catcher Wil Nieves, infielder Kevin Frandsen, and outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. account for three of the likely five bench spots. Manager Ryne Sandberg sounded confident in giving infielder Freddy Galvis a spot on the bench, and GM Ruben Amaro has talked about his preference for a left-handed-hitting outfielder capable of backing up Revere in center. The Phillies also have 10 position player non-roster invitees. You can understand how it might be hard for the Phillies to find room on the roster for Ruf.

As Matt Gelb writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sandberg has thought about ways to use Ruf:

Ryne Sandberg has promised to use his bench players in an effort to keep everyone sharp while securing important rest for his aged regulars. When asked whether he could find 300 plate appearances for Ruf, the manager said: “That’s possible.”

He added: “I like him at first base depending on how things go. If we need a righthanded bat against lefthanded pitching, we have the lineup for that. That could be Ruf in left field. He could be at first base.”

Howard has for years been an ideal platoon partner given his proclivity to punish right-handed pitching and his abysmal — and continuously declining — performance against lefties. Ruf mashed lefties in the minors and, despite a small-sample fluke in 2013 where he hit right-handers well and lefties poorly, would be a good partner in crime at first base with Howard. Ruf’s defense is well below average in the outfield, so the Phillies have to try and limit his defensive opportunities as much as possible.

Gelb suggests the Phillies could cut Mayberry during spring training. Mayberry and Ruf on the same roster is redundant, but because Ruf has options and Mayberry doesn’t, Gelb argues this is one reason why the Phillies may prefer to have Ruf start the season at Triple-A.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a designated hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.