As the theories race about what will happen when Placido Polanco is ready to come off the DL, there is one scenario that hasn't really been discussed. What about Wooten? Couldn't Shawn Wooten become the odd man out? Oh, and by the way, have you noticed that Ricky Ledee has gotten some exposure lately? What could that mean?
Make no mistake about it, Shawn Wooten is a decent ballplayer. He brought veteran experience and some clubhouse leadership ability to the Phillies by signing with them as a free agent during the off-season. He was the 2004 version of Tyler Houston, just without the attitude.
The Phillies figured that David Bell might need more days off than he has needed so far this season. They also figured that if his offensive numbers didn't pick up, Wooten could be a replacement or at least find a decent amount of playing time at third base. With David Bell putting up very solid numbers and his time in the trainer's room being much less, there is no need or desire to look to replace Bell for any substantial amount of time. Wooten was also figured on to give Jim Thome an occasional day off at first base and could be an emergency catcher, possibly leading to some more pinch-hit at bats for Todd Pratt.
Wooten filled in at first base when Jim Thome needed to rest his sore hands. He did a decent job, but didn't show anything that would lead anybody to believe that he is a major part of this club that couldn't be replaced.
As for being that emergency catcher, the Phillies haven't found any reasons to go to Todd Pratt for more pinch-hitting duties. In fact, Pratt has the second fewest at bats on the team (26) higher only than the 22 at bats that Jason Michaels has gotten.
The fact is, that Shawn Wooten could be replaced.
When Placido Polanco comes off the disabled list and somebody has to go, there are a couple scenarios that could develop. Fans have argued long and hard for Ed Wade and Larry Bowa to keep Chase Utley with the ballclub. It may or may not happen. It would be tough to send Utley back to AAA Scranton after how he has played for the Phillies in Polanco's absence.
This isn't too tough. Look at what Wooten was supposed to give this club; a backup first baseman, a backup third baseman and an emergency catcher. When Polanco is activated, he adds a potential backup third baseman. In a real pinch, Utley, who played a season at third base in AAA as the heir apparent to Scott Rolen, could move over to third. Utley also played some first base at AAA. Give the guy a couple different gloves and have him take ground balls at both first and third base.
It becomes a little more easy to see how this could work when you consider that Utley is a left-hand hitting second baseman and Polanco is a right-hand hitting second baseman. Platoon, anyone? Because of Utley's defensive deficiencies, which aren't as bad as some people would have led you to believe, Polanco could also be a defensive replacement at second base.
As for the emergency catcher, that's a luxury in major league baseball. Most teams only have an emergency catcher in theory only. For instance, the Phillies "emergency" catcher last season was Tomas Perez. It only really means that you lose Pratt as a pinch-hitter, a role that he wasn't being given a chance to play anyway.
Couple other things to consider. Polanco's return to the lineup has been delayed. Plus, now there will be the added time of a minor league rehab assignment. That rehab assignment could last up to 30 days if the Phillies want it to. Why is this important? One reason could be Shawn Wooten. Because he signed with the Phillies as a free agent, he can not be traded until June 15th. He's not going to bring you a top flight player in return, but there are clubs that would give you a little something in return for Wooten. Even if you just fill a hole on one of the minor league clubs, that would be something.
Does the word showcasing mean anything to you? Ricky Ledee has gotten 10 at bats and two starts in the outfield over the last two weeks. He started in place of Pat Burrell Thursday night and Larry Bowa announced that it was because "he wanted to get Ledee some playing time." If you want to get someone some at bats, what about Jason Michaels. Michaels, in the same two week span, has a total of four at bats and no starts in the outfield - or anywhere else for that matter. Keep Ricky Ledee's role in mind, too. He is a left-handed bat with some power to bring off the bench. And Chase Utley? Oh yeah, a left-handed bat with some power, who right now is playing everyday, but might be coming off the bench when Polanco returns. Interesting.