Clearwater Countdown: What About the Corners?

As Mother Nature throws the Philadelphia area a warm weather curve ball, it's tough not to dream of spring.

That's right -- Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater in just six days and in honor of the start of Spring Training, is continuing the top 10 countdown of issues to be settled before Opening Day.

No. 6:  Who will hold down the corner outfield positions?

Following the conclusion of the 2008 season, Pat "The Bat" Burrell was moved "outta here," which leaves multiple questions about who will be manning the outfield corners.

The Phillies have a plethora of options for the corners, which breaks the game into three simple "W's" for Charlie Manuel- Who, Where and When?

There was no doubt that the Phils' loaded left-handed lineup would miss Burrell's righty stroke, so the front office made moves by bringing in former Mariner Raul Ibanez.

Ibanez, who will earn near $30 million over the next three seasons, is a proven veteran at the plate. Over the last three years he has averaged 113 runs batted in, 26 home runs, 37 doubles and a .291 batting average.

Offensively, Ibanez will fill the void nicely.  Although he played in all 162 games last year and has earned recognition as a versatile fielder over his career, he will be turning 37-years-old this season and in recent years, it is no secret he has become an average fielder at best. This means we may see Uncle Chuck resurrect the 7th inning pull for defensive purposes.

Here's where the outfield situation get's dicey.

After his breakout 2008 season, Jayson Werth appears to be the Opening Day right fielder.

Playing in career high 134 games, Werth established himself as a threat at the plate, leading the league in homers off righties and in the terrain with his wall crashing hard nose level of play. He looms 6 foot, 5 inches, looking nearly as high as most outfield walls and has plus speed, which makes him able to cover a lot of ground in a hurry.

With his versatility in the outfield not only could Werth play center, but he could also move to left if Manuel pulls Ibanez in late innings.

This seems more likely than the next guy on the left field depth chart, Matt Stairs. At nearly 41, Stairs can still hack it at the plate but not in the field-- think Manny Ramirez on ice skates.

Actually, Stairs did play nine games in left for Toronto before he came to Philadelphia in August and was flawless, but the Phils shouldn't bet that'll be the case over the long haul.

If this is how the scenario will play out with Werth moving to left, then Geoff Jenkins looks like the man to back up Werth in right.

Jenkins put on the pinstripes before the 2008 season with high hopes of becoming the everyday man in right. But injuries limited Jenkins to only 90 games in the field making room for Jayson to prove his worth.

Jenkins is capable of playing the outfield, just not everyday. Along with his injuries he hit just .243 with nine homeruns in 293 at bats so don't expect him to play a major role in the outfield; strictly filling in for Werth if he shifts or needs an off-day and worst-case scenario Ibanez.

Enough with the old faces, in 2009 Phillies fans will be introduced to John Mayberry, Jr.

Mayberry was acquired from the Rangers in November for Greg Golson.

Mayberry looks like a younger version of Ryan Howard standing 6'6'', 230 pounds and the organization's betting on the powerful potential of the 26-year-young slugger. Between Double-A and Triple-A last season he slugged 20 HR's with 71 RBI- all coming from the right side.

Although he has no major league experience, Baseball America had him ranked the #15 top prospect in the Rangers organization in 2008. He has split his career between first and left, but the team has him slotted as a possible backup for Werth in right.

Rest assured Ibanez and Werth look to be Charlie's corner favorites heading into spring training. But if history repeats itself, which Manuel always says it does, there could be ample opportunities for extra playing time if one of these two goes down.

Until that time comes, we'll stick to the pinch-hit homers.

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