Northeast Times

Pence a perfect fit for Fightin’ Phils

When the Phil­lies lost Jayson Werth over the winter to the sur­pris­ingly deep pock­ets of the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als, the team’s lineup was left with a pretty glar­ing hole.

They had a glut of lefthan­ded power bats but no righthander to bal­ance them out. Even the guy tak­ing over for Werth in right­field, Do­mon­ic Brown, was a lefty.

To put it simply, op­pos­ing man­agers could bring in one pitch­er to deal with all the lefthanders in a row in­stead of hav­ing to ac­count for a righthander as well. That’s pretty much what has happened all sea­son.

Enter Ruben Am­aro Jr. and his latest trade-dead­line splash, Hunter Pence.

Am­aro’s propensity to make big things hap­pen for this team usu­ally cen­ters on the pitch­ing staff. See Roy Hal­laday, Cliff Lee, Roy Os­walt and, again, Cliff Lee.

This year the team prob­ably could have used some help in the bull­pen, but the start­ing ro­ta­tion was set.

That righthan­ded bat was the is­sue.

So after the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants ren­ted Car­los Beltran for the re­mainder of the sea­son — at a very high cost — the Phil­lies were left with a lim­ited field of out­field­ers to choose from.

Beltran was con­sidered the top bat on the trade mar­ket this year, based solely on num­bers. Go­ing on those same num­bers, Pence would have been the second-best bat avail­able.

Any­one who has watched base­ball long enough — or even just played team sports — knows that per­form­ance is not the only cri­terion to judge a play­er.

At­ti­tude can be just as im­port­ant.

In his first two games in a Phil­lies uni­form, it is easy to see that Pence was the best ad­di­tion for this team. With an ear-to-ear grin plastered on his face from the mo­ment he stepped on the field, Pence showed how good a fit he will be for this lineup. His ap­proach to base­ball is very sim­il­ar to how Chase Ut­ley plays — al­ways hard.

And, look­ing strictly at the num­bers and his right righthan­ded bat, Pence proved his worth on Sunday when the Pitt­s­burgh Pir­ates, who had lefthander Joe Beimel on the mound to pitch to Ut­ley and Ry­an Howard, chose to bring in a righty to pitch to Pence. 

Pence got on base. And then that same righty served up Raul Ibanez’s second home run of the game. 

Pence’s first at-bat on Sat­urday show­cased his hard-nosed ap­proach to the game when he sprin­ted to first base to make an easy out in­to a close call on a ball he hit onto the in­field grass.

Pence was called out, and his re­ac­tion showed his dis­pleas­ure with that call.

The fans could not have been hap­pi­er to see that ef­fort.

Ma­jor league scouts are say­ing the Gi­ants’ ac­quis­i­tion of Beltran could work against the team’s chem­istry be­cause his en­ergy level likely won’t match that of his new team­mates.

Only time will tell.

What makes the Pence ac­quis­i­tion even more ap­peal­ing? The guys Am­aro struc­tured the deal around.

The Phil­lies were able to keep Brown and pitch­er Vance Wor­ley, both of whom were rumored to be in vari­ous deals lead­ing up to Sunday’s dead­line.

They did sur­render Jonath­an Singleton, a power-hit­ting first-base pro­spect who’d have a hard time sup­plant­ing Howard. They also gave up Jarred Cosart, a sol­id pitch­ing pro­spect but not the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s best ac­cord­ing to per­form­ance this year, and Josh Zeid, a re­lief-pitch­ing pro­spect.

The As­tros also have to se­lect a fourth pro­spect to fin­ish the deal.

While four pro­spects for one play­er might seem lop­sided, it’s worth­while to look at how many of the pro­spects the team traded for Hal­laday, Lee and Os­walt are ac­tu­ally in the ma­jors now. ••

You can reach at mgodfrey@bsmphilly.com.

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