Notes: Byrd surprised about demotion
Outfielder hit .390 this spring, but will play at Triple-A
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Marlon Byrd did everything he could to make the Phillies' roster this season, and he feels it didn't matter.The hard-working outfielder was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday despite a new swing and a .390 average that opened the eyes of many doubters. He had been cruising until dislocating his right ring finger March 20 in Winter Haven, though he had been working hard to be ready for the season since suffering the injury. On one hand, Byrd proved he still belonged on a Major League roster. On the other hand, he'll open the season April 7 at Lackawanna County Stadium. "I can't be disappointed," Byrd said. "I did everything I could to make this team. The finger might have been a setback or just the situation. I was the odd man out, I had the option and they can use it. It boils down to their decision." The decision boiled down to a few factors. Kenny Lofton's recent strides from a strained left hamstring convinced the team that he was ready for prime time. Manager Charlie Manuel wanted a left-handed bat off the bench, a job that will likely be filled by 14-year veteran Jose Offerman, a switch-hitter. And Byrd has a minor league option remaining. "We wanted to make sure Kenny was sound," said general manager Ed Wade. "We're going to go with four outfielders and a left-handed bat off the bench. If we don't make any changes at this point, it'll probably be Offerman. That's what I told Marlon today. He did everything you could ask him to do down here. I told him that, and I'm sure it was of no solace to him. We had to sit down and evaluate who were the best 25 leaving." Though much of his comments were dipped in frustration, Byrd doesn't know what else to do. Despite batting .303 as a rookie, he lost his job the next season when he batted .228. Another message came when Wade acquired Lofton this winter. And with three legitimate outfield prospects in Michael Bourn, Chris Roberson and Greg Golson, Byrd is questioning his place in the organization. "Not with them sending me down," Byrd said. "[The media] saw I wasn't in their plans all offseason." Would he like a trade? "I'm not sure what'd be best," Byrd said. "I want to play in the big leagues. I'm not sure if it's best for me to go down and getting some at-bats and seeing what happens, or go somewhere else and possibly be in the same situation." From Wade's point of view, the only thing Byrd can do is continue to produce.
"He's going to go play every day at Scranton, continue to be ready," said Wade. "If we have a need, it's good to know that we have him down here. I'm sure he'll go down there with the same approach he had here, which was outstanding. We talked about it all spring, how he prepared in the offseason to show us and 29 other clubs what he was capable of doing. I think he did everything to make it happen. To use a cliché, it's a numbers thing.As for the long-range plans, Wade said, "I don't know how long Lofton is going to play. I know he's a free agent at the end of the season. I know we've got some young center fielders coming, but they're a ways away, so I'm not prepared to write off Marlon yet." Wagner vents: Don't be surprised if Billy Wagner is absent next March. "This [stinks]," Wagner said after his latest struggle, this time on Thursday against the Blue Jays at Bright House Networks Field. "I ain't showing up for Spring Training next year. Every [butt] whooping I take is miserable." Wagner would have been the losing pitcher had the Phillies not rallied to tie the game. Trying to protect an 8-7 lead, he coughed up two runs and left with Philadelphia down a run. He surrendered three hits, and has a spring ERA of 6.75 over 10 2/3 innings. The biggest issue has been his command. "I'm trying to get honed in," Wagner said. "I feel comfortable throwing. The ball just isn't going where I want it right now." At least he's healthy this spring. "That's what makes it even more frustrating," he said. "Of course, things change [during the season]. It doesn't make me feel too good now." Rotation shift: Philadelphia's starting rotation has rotated.
|Brett Myers / P|
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Now following Jon Lieber for the second game of the season: Brett Myers, Randy Wolf, Cory Lidle and Gavin Floyd, with Myers getting the big bump from fourth to second.
The reason is Manuel wanted to put a harder thrower between ace Lieber and Wolf, who rely more on location."I feel this gives us more balance," Manuel said. "When we first discussed our rotation, I kind of liked it that way. The more we talked about it, we'd figured we'd go that way because we like Myers' big arm [behind Lieber] and then Wolf third." The switch means that Myers will start April 6 against the Nationals, and Wolf will start April 7. Victorino returns: Outfielder Shane Victorino cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A, where he will join Byrd and Mark Budzinski on the Red Barons' outfield depth chart. Claimed in the Rule 5 Draft from the Dodgers, Victorino had a poor spring, batting .154 in 52 at-bats, and he was spotty at times in the outfield. He nailed a home run on Thursday, lifting the Phillies to a 9-9 tie with the Blue Jays. "I put way too much pressure on myself instead of going out there and playing," Victorino said. "That's where I definitely went wrong." Wade told Victorino that he was welcome to play at Triple-A, since the Dodgers had already specified that weren't going to take him back. Victorino could have become a free agent, but chose the Red Barons. "We knew he could take his free agency in lieu of either Triple-A assignment, but we told him he had the opportunity to play here, and he took it," Wade said. "We like his tools, but he has to continue to play." Wade said Victorino and Byrd will get their share of playing time for the Red Barons, possibly playing all three outfield spots. Perez suits up: Tomas Perez further enhanced his versatility on Thursday, catching Rheal Cormier and Terry Adams at the minor league complex. "He didn't have any equipment and it took a while to get him suited up," said Cormier. "He looked like a midget." Quotable: "This is the best I've felt all spring." -- Jim Thome, who crushed a two-run homer in the seventh inning. Thome played on back-to-back days for the first time since feeling stiffness in his back last week Coming up: While the rest of the team braves the chilly Philadelphia weather this weekend, Wolf will start in a minor league at the Carpenter Complex. He's expected to rejoin the team Friday night or Saturday afternoon. Lidle is scheduled to pitch on Saturday against the Tigers in the first of two "On-Deck" games scheduled at Citizens Bank Park. Philling in: Lofton flew to Philadelphia with the team on Thursday, scrapping plans to play in minor league games this weekend. Manuel suggested that he might play in one or both of the games at Citizens Bank Park. Lofton remains on target to be the Opening Day center fielder. ... Minor leaguers Kurt Keene and Nick Italiano were released. ... With 5,313 fans attending Thursday's game, the Phillies have topped 100,000 in the first two years at Bright House Networks Field. The 104,693 was second to the team record of 113,037 set last spring.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.