Spring training officially began for Phillies minor leaguers last Friday, but several prospects have been in camp with the big club since last month and have seen game action along side established red pinstripe rocking stars.
While their minor league peers won't begin their own exhibition games until next Monday, prospects such as Justin De Fratus, Mike Stutes, Vance Worley and Scott Mathieson have been tackling relief innings with the Phillies on the parent club's preseason schedule. Also, position players like Matt Rizzotti, Josh Barfield, and Michael Martinez have gotten some time to show off their offensive and defensive abilities.
De Fratus, is a righty hurler that has been on the rise in the Phillies organization since he was drafted in the 11th round of the 2007 amateur draft. Recently ranked as the Phillies' number 5 prospect, De Fratus has had a bit of a tough spring, getting hit around somewhat in his outings. In 3 games, De Fratus has a 0-1 record, with 7 hits and 4 earned runs allowed in 4 innings (9.00 ERA).
Stutes, an 11th round draft pick in 2008 out of Oregon State, is drawing plenty of interest this spring. The right-hander, Stutes, moved to the bullpen in 2010 after starting in his first two pro seasons. This spring, Stutes has been lights-out when he has taken the hill. In 3 Grapefruit League appearances, Stutes has struck out 8 and walked none in 5 innings, while allowing just one earned run on a solo homer.
Worley, an Eastern League all-star each of the past two seasons, made his Major League debut with the Phillies in July last year. Now, the 23-year-old is striving hard to prove himself worthy of making the club this season. In 3 Grapefruit League games, Worley, also a righty, has allowed 3 earned runs in 6 innings, while allowing 10 hits, 2 walks and striking out 1 batter.
Mathieson, who is still on the road back from three separate elbow surgeries, has been working on an improved repertoire by adding a split-finger fastball to his collection of weapons. With the new pitch, Mathieson has been satisfied by his progress and has allowed 2 earned runs in 4 innings (4.50 ERA) and struck out 4, while walking 2 in 3 spring outings. Mathieson is being counted on to contribute out of the Phillies' bullpen in 2010, according to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
Rizzotti, the 25-year-old slugging first baseman who was recently ranked as the Phillies' number 11 prospect, is fresh off a tremendous 2010 season when he batted .343 with 17 homeruns at three levels of the Phillies system then batted .333 in the Arizona Fall League. A 6th round draft choice in 2007, the left-handed hitting Rizzotti is 2-for-5 with a double, a homerun, 2 RBI and a walk in 5 Grapefruit League games.
Barfield, a righty batting second baseman who was signed this off-season to add depth to the organization, is 5-for-10 (.500 avg) with a .545 OBP, 1 double, 1 SB and 3 runs in 5 games played with the Phillies. If Chase Utley's knee injury continues to linger, Barfield could have a shot at making the club's opening day roster. The 28-year-old Barfield is a .264 hitter in 304 Major League games with the Padres and Indians.
Martinez was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Phillies, from Washington, in December. The 28-year-old Martinez has never played above the Triple A level, but is versatile, playing second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions during his professional career. Martinez, however, has just 4 hits in 21 at bats (.190 avg), although one of those hits was a homerun. The switch-hitting Martinez must be offered back to the Nationals before the Phillies can assign him to the minors.
Other players worth noting...
3B, Carlos Rivero- .333 average, with a run scored and 2 RBI in 8 games played this spring.
IF, Harold Garcia- 1-for-6 (.167 avg), 1 walk, 4 strike outs.
RHP, Drew Carpenter- 1-0 record in 2 games, with 2 hits allowed, 1 walk and 3 strike outs.
RHP, JC Ramirez- 0-1 record in 2 games. Ramirez had one remarkable outing and one that was poor. He has allowed 4 earned runs in 5 total innings (7.20 ERA) with 5 strike outs and 1 walk.
It remains to be seen which of these prospects will get the opportunity to help the Phillies in the 2011 regular season, but for now, each of them is giving his all to earn a shot at doing so.
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