Roster Shake-Ups at Reading and Lehigh Valley

Domonic Brown (Photo: Philly Baseball News)

You know the old saying; You can't tell the players without a program. Well, that's very true at both Reading and Lehigh Valley where a number of recent moves have brought in some fresh new faces. In Lehigh Valley, the Domonic Brown era begins as the Phillies top prospect moves closer to a trip to Philadelphia.

Whoever sews the names on the back of the jerseys at Lehigh Valley and Reading are getting overtime; There's a lot of stitching to be done. Just to start with the basic update on all of the moves, here's the list of transactions from the past couple of days:

Nelson Figueroa - contract purchased by the Phillies, taking him out of Lehigh Valley's starting rotation.
Dane Sardinha - Promoted to Philadelphia when Carlos Ruiz returned to the DL.
Luis Maza - Traded to Houston for no compensation. Ouch! Not even a bag of baseballs.
Greg Dobbs - Joins Lehigh Valley after clearing waivers and accepting an assignment to AAA.
Domonic Brown - Gets a well deserved promotion from AA Reading to AAA Lehigh Valley. Will a September visit to Philadelphia follow?
Chris Aguila - The veteran outfielder, who has played for the Mets and Marlins comes to the Phillies in a deal with Toronto for a player to be named later.
Rich Thompson and Neil Sellers - Both get squeezed out of Lehigh Valley's clubhouse and wind up back at AA Reading.

Add to this the shuffling of Scott Mathieson and Mike Zagurski between bullpens in Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley and the Phillies have had to shell out a lot of per diem travel money. Mathieson simply wasn't given a shot with the Phillies. He had one horrid outing and he was immediately headed back to Philadelphia, even though there was a chance that another club could have claimed him off waivers and made things very complicated. Both Mathieson and Zagurski are worthy of getting a shot to stick in the Phillies bullpen and Zagurski pitched well in his first outing back with the big league club. Mathieson should return this September, if not before.

Depending which camp you're in, Nelson Figueroa either deserved the demotion to Lehigh Valley or he didn't, but he certainly pitched impressively while he was there. In three starts, Figueroa was 3-0, 0.95 and allowed just ten hits in 19 innings of work. He struck out 18 opposing hitters, who were batting a combined .149 against him at AAA. When Chad Durbin wound up on the DL this week, Figueroa was a natural choice to become the Phillies' long-man out of the pen.

When Jimmy Rollins came off the DL this week, it was somewhat of a surprise that Greg Dobbs was designated for assignment. The smart - well, apparently not too smart - money was on either Juan Castro or Wilson Valdez. Castro and Valdez are very similar type players, who provide solid defense and chip in what they can on offense, although Valdez has been hitting pretty well lately. It was thought that the Phillies wouldn't keep both and would send one of them to Lehigh Valley, but either of them would have had to clear waivers and there were no guarantees that Castro would make it and while Valdez cleared waivers earlier this season, he might not have made it through again. Dobbs did make it through and accepted the assignment to Triple-A.

Dane Sardinha made his debut as a Phillie in the 12-3 romp over Cleveland on Thursday and hit his first major league home run, which came in his 32nd game as a major leaguer. Sardinha was playing well at Lehigh Valley and didn't get the promotion earlier in the season when Brian Schneider was hurt; that call went to Paul Hoover, who had just cleared waivers and was barely back with the IronPigs when Ruiz went on the DL. Sardinha and Hoover were both playing well at Lehigh Valley, with manager Dave Huppert splitting their playing time behind the plate.

Dealing Luis Maza was no big deal. Maza, who started the season as the IronPigs starting second baseman, was hitting just .222 and had lost his starting job to Melvin Dorta, making his exit not so unexpected. The promotion of Domonic Brown came a little quicker than a lot of people thought that it would. It seemed like the Phillies would wait until later in July to make the move, much like they did last season with Michael Taylor. Instead, they had seen enough of Brown at Double-A Reading and made the move now. Assistant GM Chuck LaMar said the Phillies had planned on Brown playing half the season at Reading and he had done that and with great success, so it was time to make the move.

That's where it all gets weird.

With the addition of Dobbs, the IronPigs now had four players for three positions. Cody Ransom is the club's starting third baseman, while Neil Sellers and veteran Andy Tracy were sharing time at first base and as a designated hitter. The addition of Dobbs made things pretty full between first, third and DH and the fact that he can play outfield didn't help, since their outfield was pretty well full as well, so Sellers became the odd-man-out and makes the trip back to Reading. That full outfield, which now had prospect John Mayberry Jr., Willy Taveras, Rich Thompson and Chris Duffy overflowed with the addition of Brown. Obviously, Brown and Mayberry are everyday players, so something had to give and Thompson, who is a minor league veteran and a clubhouse leader for Lehigh Valley drew the short straw and the all expenses paid trip to Baseball Town, as Reading declares itself to be. But then why do you add Chris Aguila from Toronto? Aguila can play the outfield and third base, positions which seem to be pretty full at Lehigh Valley.

In 19 games at Lehigh Valley, Taveras is hitting just .228 and would have seemed like the obvious one to jettison. Instead, it was Thompson, who is the team leader in stolen bases with 17. It didn't help that Duffy, Taveras and Thompson are all very similar type players who use speed as their biggest weapon, but out of the three of them, Duffy provides the best defense and Thompson provided the best ability to get on base. Aguila is less of a speed player, although he doesn't bring awe-inspiring defense or a power bat with him to add to the Lehigh Valley roster.

Steve Noworyta, the Phillies assistant director of minor league operations, said that the Phillies were interested in Aguila this past spring, but he chose to sign with Toronto instead. Like the Phillies, Toronto had a glut of outfielders at Triple-A and were willing to give Aguila to the Phillies on a wait-and-see basis and the Phillies took them up on their offer.

It's possible - very possible - that there are moves to follow, and a trade that would involve Mayberry wouldn't be out of the question. It will be interesting to see how things play out both at Lehigh Valley and in Reading. After all, with Brown moving up and Tyson Gillies returning to the DL after re-aggravating his hamstring injury, there are going to be a lot of changes in Reading's outfield, in addition to all of the moves that affect the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. One thing is certain; Next time that you're at either Lehigh Valley or Reading, be sure to grab a program on the way in. It may be the only way to tell who the new faces are.


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