Veterans The Answer To Infield Quandary

“He’s at or ahead of schedule in most areas, so we are really pleased. We are cautiously optimistic that he will be able to do some weight-bearing stuff.”

Just recently, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said that — according to David Murphy — pertaining to second baseman Chase Utley, who is rehabbing from hip surgery. Utley said he wants to return to the Phillies by opening day, but the original timetable set for Utley was four to six months after surgery, putting his return at around May. “At or ahead of schedule” seems like maybe late April.

Meanwhile, the Phillies signed Marcus Giles and Pablo Ozuna to minor league deals. Giles knows his challenge is to try and make the Phils bench, while he’ll obviously compete with Jason Donald for potentially the starting second base role. And with Pedro Feliz also rehabbing from back surgery, it’s possible the Phils roster might include a couple “stopgap” players.

It’s very possible, in fact, the Phillies 2009 Opening Day lineup will look like this:

Rollins / Bruntlett / Werth / Howard / Victorino / Ibanez / Dobbs / Ruiz / Hamels

So don’t be surprised.

So far, the front office’s answer to the infield injury quandary has been veteran infielders with little pop in their bats, while hinging some sort of wager on the young Donald. And really, it’s the only answer. Free agents with more experience such as Joe Crede will demand more than the Phillies want to pay; meanwhile, a Juan Uribe might look good for a few weeks, but his Type B level doesn’t make him too desirable. The hope is Feliz will return close enough to allow Dobbs to settle back into being the top pinch hitter, and allow Bruntlett to move back to his super-utility role; moreover, hope that Giles or Ozuna can strike gold in Spring Training and help the situation by allowing flexibility.

Luckily, this is nothing new for the Phillies. The 2008 team dealt with injuries to both Feliz and Jimmy Rollins, and Dobbs, Bruntlett and Co. did a fine job in response. There’s no reason to think otherwise.

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