Phillies' center field derby enters the stretch drive


The Phillies have an off day in spring training Thursday. Think of it as the calm before the storm.

When the Phils come back Friday night to play the New York Yankees, they will have just 11 games left in Florida. In other words, one of the biggest storylines in camp, the battle for the starting center field job, will be in the home stretch.

Roman Quinn. Scott Kingery. Odubel Herrera.

Who will it be?

It could go right down to the wire.

"I think the next two weeks, 10 days are really important, that's kind of the way I'm sizing it up," manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday. "Quality at-bats are going to be really important.

"There's no rush, in a sense, to make the decision because they're all getting at-bats and getting an opportunity. People are trying to do different things, make adjustments to swings and trying to put themselves in a better position, so I think it's fair to just let it play out."

Girardi would not say if there was a frontrunner, but performance would suggest that Quinn and Herrera are out front.

Quinn is 7 for 22 (.318) with two doubles, three walks and a .400 on-base percentage. On the downside, he has struck out eight times.

Herrera is 7 for 26 (.269) with three homers, six RBIs and a .269 on-base percentage. He has not drawn a walk. He has struck out six times.

Kingery has spent the spring working to shorten his swing and adapt more of a line drive approach. He is 3 for 27 (.111) with a double, a homer, two walks and a .172 on-base percentage. In a camp where making contact and reducing strikeouts is being emphasized, Kingery has struck out 12 times.

There are roster considerations with all three players

Quinn is out of minor-league options. If he doesn't win the job, his time in the organization could be up and he could be traded or designated for assignment.

Kingery has options. If he doesn't win the job, he could be sent to the minors to work more on his swing adjustments, though the Phillies would miss his defensive versatility, particularly if Brad Miller (oblique strain) is not ready for opening day.

Herrera, coming back from a well-documented suspension for violating Major League Baseball's policy against domestic abuse, is technically a minor-league player and would remain one if he does not make the team. If he wins the center field job, the Phils would have to add him to the 40-man roster, thus removing someone else.

Herrera belted his third homer of the spring in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Detroit. He also made a nice sliding catch in right field.

"He's performed well," Girardi said. "He's been pretty consistent with his at-bats."

Adam Haseley was in the center field derby until dropping out with a groin injury.

Veteran Travis Jankowski remains an outside candidate. The lefty-swinging Jankowski has significant big-league time with San Diego, but he's in camp as a non-roster player with a team that is going to be scuffling for 40-man roster spots in a week or so. The odds of him making the club out of camp are steep, but he could end up providing valuable Triple A depth and get to the majors at some point in the season with the Phillies.

Mickey Moniak has opened eyes with his progress in camp and he, too, could get a shot in Philadelphia before the season is over. At the moment, however, he appears ticketed for regular at-bats and playing time at Triple A. If Moniak continues to improve, he could be in a position to make the team out of camp next spring. The contracts of Herrera and Andrew McCutchen both expire after this season so there will be opportunity in the outfield next spring.

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