Who Plays First if Howard Can’t?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sat, October 15, 2011 01:44 PM | Comments: 32
Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts


Five-to-six months is being optimistic. That’s the timetable Ruben Amaro Jr. put on injured first baseman Ryan Howard earlier in the week – and to return to the Ryan Howard we’re used to seeing. No limitations, no issues. Five months from the day he went under the knife would be March 12; or right smack in the middle of Spring Training.

Modern science seems to have sped the healing process on certain injuries, and this very well could be one of them. Matt Gelb over at the Philadelphia Inquirer checked into the latest Achillies tears and found that the time obviously varies by each individual, but that no play in the last decade he found came back to the team in less than six months. Kevin Frandsen, formerly of the San Francisco Giants and the Phillies minor league system, returned to action in six months and four days in 2008.

This leads to a question: if Howard is to miss extended time in the regular season, who’s on first?

In 2011 when Howard sat out, it was John Mayberry Jr. 10 times and Ross Gload seven. Neither is the finest of  candidates at first base, however, Mayberry is quite athletic and would probably present adequate defense if given the job longer term. Gload was playing on one hip this last season, plus it’s unknown whether or not he would return to the Phils in 2012, and he’s just a bench guy anyway.

So it comes down to whether or not the Phillies look in-house or reach outside the organization.

If they stay in, the obvious choice is Mayberry, but is it the right one. Just to the right of Ryan Howard could be the answer: Chase Utley. The second baseman has played 26 games at first base in his career, but none since 2008.

Why would you move a very good defensive second baseman to first? Well, to save his body for one. Utley’s knees get a breather and allow him to forgo the rigors of playing up the middle everyday, at least for a little while.

Mayberry can continue on in left field and the Phillies would be free to bring in a guy who could play multiple positions. Maybe moving Polanco to second and bringing in a guy like Wilson Betemit (as Corey and I talk about in PN TV). He’s a super utility guy who can play several positions and is the sort of bench threat the Phillies need. A guy with some power, can play the infield, and can certainly pinch hit.

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About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1684 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

  • Posts: 0 Eric W

    Bring in Greg Dobbs.

    Makes a lot of sense. Dobbs can play third base for an aging Polanco, he can also play LF and RF. He has also seen time at 1B before.
    Dobbs is coming off a great year with the Marlins and is familiar with this team. His asking price won’t be to high either.
    Dobbs can play third base to give Polanco a rest or put Polanco at 2nd base and move Utley. OR Dobbs to LF, Mayberry to 1B.
    Betemit will demand greater money(Not a great 3B market out there). Betemit is also not that good with the glove(not saying Dobbs is!)

    • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

      Avatar of Pat Gallen

      Eric, do we really wanna go down the Dobbs path again? I know Charlie is a Dobbs guy, but I think they need a stronger presence than that.

  • Posts: 0 Dickie Thong

    March 12th would be five months from the date of surgery, not six.

  • Posts: 5226 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty


  • Posts: 0 Karen


  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    I thought this was already discuss in previous threads though. If he is going to just miss a little time im sure they will work out a platoon situation with Mayberry or call up Ovebeck. Five months will bring to the middle of March. So it’s possible he wont miss the start or not much of it. Although with Gload possibly retiring they may need a back up and another pinch hitter anyways.

  • Posts: 427 Publius

    Avatar of Publius

    Trade for Nick Swisher

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    PS..dont be surprised if they bring back Gload again…Im sure Gload will accept 1.3 mill to play a few games and pinch hit a few times and chew tobacco and spit out seeds.

  • Posts: 0 larry

    I say we call up the 1b from Reading. I have sewn Matt play a few times and he will be all star material in the big leagues.

  • Posts: 0 Dmar

    In an ideal world, the surgery would be successful, Howard would be pronounced healthy, the Phils would agree to eat 1/2 of his salary and then trade him to an AL team so he can DH.

    That frees up money to pursue a hitter that will produce in the playoffs.

    Just sayin’

  • Posts: 0 Hilary

    I agree….Mayberry would be a great choice. Tall, quick, and athletic

  • Posts: 0 davehist

    Mayberry or Utley would seem to be the answer. Of course, if it’s Mayberry that puts the burden on Brown to start producing in left field.At least in a platoon with Ben Francisco. And I’m thinking we’re probably not going to see a healthy and mobile Howard till sometime in May, at least.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Larry i thought the same, but Overbeck makes a little more sense. He is better defensively and he has a better BA at AAA. Rizzotti strugled when he was bought up to AAA with the bat.

  • Posts: 31 Gavin

    Avatar of Gavin

    What about this:
    When Howard’s gone, you play Mayberry at 1st and Brown in left. If Brown is doing good enough, he can stay, if he doesn’t, he’ll go back down.
    When Howard comes back, you play Mayberry or Brown in left, depending of who did better.

  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    See how Travis Lee is doing in retirement and if he is willing , then bring him back to play first base.

  • Posts: 0 Dark

    I’d go with Mayberry, assuming the Brown takes over LF next year. Mayberry has proven he has some power, and is almost certainly better at defense than Howard. Plus, that we he can get more playing time and develop as a player more. Age is on his side.

  • Posts: 62 LCMRSalazar85

    Avatar of LCMRSalazar85

    Mayberry is the odds favorite. However, it leaves LF wide open. Dom Brown is by no means a lock of making the lineup next year. It raises an interesting question about Ben Francisco here.

  • Posts: 0 bo

    I had the same surgery. Three months in a cast and then 1-2 months in therapy. But my therapy was an hour a day, 3 times a weeks. He’ll have world class therapists and will be able to do therapy all day if he wants. The therapy is basically re-stretching the achilles back to normal size. While in the cast his foot should be pointing down, hence this is why it has to stretch back to normal length I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in spring training at some point in time.

  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    The Phils are examining problems with 1B, 3rd and probably short. Why put 2b in that nutty mix? I don’t think its a viable option.

    I kinda like the idea of a Mayberry/Matt (Rizzoti) platoon at first (in case or WHEN one gets cold) especially since (at least we hope) the inury wont take up that much time.

    Chase stays at 2nd. Brown platoons in LF with Raul or even Benny…

  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    The knock on Rizzotti is that he can’t play defense AT ALL. So while the bat is good, does it make sense to have an even worse glove than Howard? Overbeck might be the better 1B

    • Posts: 2069 Brooks

      Avatar of Brooks

      I think at this point that the bat has to favor the defense. We need wood and need it bad.

  • Posts: 0 Bob Myers

    WOW, if we’re talking Mayberry at 1st, and maybe a lesser replacement for Rollins, and no major upgrade at 3rd, we’re consigning ourselves to not make the play offs next year.

    Anyone who thinks we can win more than 90 games with Mayberry, no Rollins (or Reyes), and Polanco at third is not facing reality.

    This was our year to win it. We blew it. The team got old faster than we thought, and Utley’s arthritic knees are still a looming threat. Very sad to say it after winning 102 games, but the time was now, and we’re in trouble without some MAJOR changes.

    • Posts: 576 Brian Sr. of CO

      Avatar of Brian Sr. of CO

      You can not be serious right? I mean, last time I checked, the majority if people think that Polly is GREAT, Raul SUCKS, Jimmy is well past his prime, and is WORTHLESS, and Howard is completely useless. I mean, if the majority of people are correct, than clearly getting rid of those bums should really help the team. Chill buddy. Seriously, chill out. You are still talking about a team with Halladay, Lee and Hamels. No idea about Oswalt. Pence is still around. Utley is still a good player, and should be healthy. If the Phillies do not “upgrade” 3b, I suspect they have the same regular season production as 2011.

      • Posts: 0 Bob Myers

        Utley healthy? I wish but that’s not what his numbers show nor is it what Ruben Amaro said in a rare moment of information on Chase. Amaro said Chase can not do leg weight training and this I.s why he has lost power. His condition is degenerative.

        The trend of the mainstays is clearly downward. Aging is a harsh reality and this team has shown it apart from new stellar pitchers who had incredible seasons. Sure hope these pitchers all continue. If they do then maybe they make playoffs. I love this team and hate to think the missing offense will continue to drag them down……..

    • Posts: 0 Dave Lerch

      I agree to an extent. With our pitching, we will win a lot of games during the season and will make the playoffs as a result. This despite the abysmal offense just like we have been since 2009. However, I think we should look at what the Flyers did. Once they realized that their core just wasn’t good enough,they made dramatic changes and let go of veteran star players in order to get younger and ultimately better. So far so good for the Flyers,but, I think they did the right thing.This team (Phillies) isn’t good enough to win a World Series with the core everyday players. They need to make trades and dramatic change or else we end up the Atlanta Braves with lots of division titles but not good enough to win it all. I’m a diehard Phillies fan and want them to win desperately,but, I don’t see this team winning it regardless of whether Howard returns timely or not, or who plays in his absence. Time to take some risks and break up the core. We will make the playoffs with a healthy pitching staff,but are destined for disappointment if we go forward with the same core players who are just not good enough anymore.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Not only that Pat, but Rizzotti had trouble hitting AAA at AA he rakes in. Howard wasnt the greatest especially his first few years. Even now he isnt gretand before last year every time he toss the ball to 2nd we all cringed (even a little to this day). The thing is even if he comes back on time with no Gload, and if Mayberry is the starting LF who is backing up Howard at 1st should he become injured.

  • Posts: 0 Ron

    I would go with Mayberry if Howard is not available…and to fill 2 spots in one signing a long shot but if he’s available bring in Jim Thome to spell Mayberry at first base to either rest Mayberry or platoon him in left with Domonic Brown sign Thome to a one year deal and he can be a lefty off the bench.

  • Posts: 0 Andrew from Harrisburg

    Gene Schall.

    Anybody getting really jealous watching the LCS games? The offenses just look so…productive. I miss that here.

  • Posts: 576 Brian Sr. of CO

    Avatar of Brian Sr. of CO

    The doom and gloom on this site is far worse than usual, and that is kind of sad. Maybe the Phillies can have a Prozak giveaway day instead of a bobbleheard or something. Please, for the love of baseball, CHILL OUT. Before the post season even started some of us had a very strong feeling this would happen if the Cardinals made the playofs, yet were called “clueless” and “stupid” and “idiots”. Maybe some of us watch baseball outside of just the Phillies. Maybe we understand the game? Even in the NLDS, I said it was “doubtful” the Phillies would win the series, but I was “smoking” something. Going into the playoffs, I saw a few things that would certainly kill the Phillies.

    A. The Cards were (and still are) HOT AS HELL (“I am not so sure about there not being a “buzz saw” honestly. The Cardinals (granted the Braves continue to suck and Cards overtake them) are playing DAMN GOOD baseball.”)

    B. Carpenter has completely OWNED the Phillies (on normal rest…”The difficult part is Carpenter has owned the Phillies, at 5-0 with a darn nice ERA.”

    C. Phillies offense beginning to slump before the NL east was locked up. “Am I the only one who is now starting to get worried about the Phillies offense slumping yet again at the wrong time? 1 run in the first inning and a whopping 4 hits on Bud Norris?”

    I also really do not understand moving Pence in front of Howard. Gave it a shot, and it worked in game 1, then it flopped. I get Utley hitting 2nd, rather than Polly, but it seemed like maybe after Game 3, and the only offense we could muster was a 3 run homer by Ben Fran, that maybe Cholly should have moved Vic to 3rd, and Pence back to 5th. We have been saying this entire season Baseball is a mental game, but honestly, overall Howard hits FAR better with Pence hitting 5th. Also Pence hits better hitting 5th.

  • Posts: 87 Dr. Dave

    Avatar of Dr. Dave

    Just to be on the record again:

    I stated that the Phils should trade for Wilson Betemit prior to his trade to Detroit.

  • Posts: 0 yahtzee26

    I think a combo of Mayberry/Utley works best. If Rollins is re-signed, you have the option of sliding Polly to 2nd, Brown to Left and use a utility type player at 3b. Or if Galvis makes the squad, you put him at 2nd with Utley at 1b and rollins at ss.

  • Posts: 0 mike vanston

    utley to 1st…..isnt ther a 3rd baseman that holds a defensive recod for 2nd baseman???/
    Question is now who plays 3rd

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