Revere ready for role as Phillies leading man?
Twins manager Gardenhire believes his former outfielder can handle job
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel has been poked and prodded about his Opening Day lineup since the Phillies opened camp last month.
He has been asked about splitting up Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. He has been asked where he might hit Michael Young. But most questions have involved Jimmy Rollins and Ben Revere. Namely, would Manuel hit Revere first to take advantage of Rollins' power lower in the lineup?
It is an interesting question, but not too many people in Philadelphia have seen Revere play on a consistent basis to know exactly what he brings to a lineup. In fact, Manuel has said the same thing: he needs to see Revere play more before he makes any decisions about his spot in the order. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has seen Revere play. He managed him before the Twins traded him to the Phillies in December for Vance Worley and Trevor May.
"Well, it depends," Gardenhire said Tuesday at Hammond Stadium, when asked if Revere has potential as a leadoff hitter. "He's a .300 hitter. He didn't walk a lot. He didn't take a lot of pitches. But the kid can put the barrel on it. He finds different ways to get on, whether it's dropping a drag bunt, he outruns balls. The walks ... I think as he gets more experience, he'll probably learn to take a few more pitches here and there. And if they ask him to do that, Ben can do that. But Ben likes to swing."
Revere averaged 3.61 pitches per plate appearance last season, which ranked 121st out of 144 qualifying players in baseball. Rollins averaged 3.70, which ranked 100th. Revere has started 128 games in his career in the leadoff spot. He has hit .263 with a .310 on-base percentage in those games. Rollins has started 1,374 games in the leadoff spot and has hit .273 with a .332 on-base percentage.
Revere hit .294 with a .333 on-base percentage, .342 slugging percentage and .675 OPS last season. Rollins hit .250 with a .316 on-base percentage, .427 slugging percentage and .743 OPS.
Revere has a career .319 on-base percentage, although that number has trended upward in his brief career. Rollins has a career .328 on-base percentage, although that number has trended downward the past two seasons.
The smart bet is Rollins opens the season as the Phillies' leadoff hitter. If the situation dictates it, Manuel could move up Revere later. But Manuel is a loyal guy. He isn't going to overlook Rollins' track record before the season starts.
But Gardenhire thinks Revere could do the job, if needed.
"I had no problem putting him up there, because he hit .300 for us," Gardenhire continued. "He's an igniter. He gets on the bases, makes things happen. It just depends what you're looking for. If you're looking for a guy that's going to take a lot of pitches, probably not Benny. But if you're looking for a guy that's going to hit for a high average and ignite a baseball team, that's what you've got."
Manuel has argued Rollins has done exactly that since he started filling out the Phillies' lineup card in 2005.
"We had Juan Pierre last year," Manuel said last month. "You were always asking why Pierre didn't lead off? Because for me, Rollins is a better leadoff hitter. And you can say Pierre hit .300 and Rollins hit .250 or .260, but Rollins' .250 or .260 had more value to it than Pierre's .300."
Pierre had better numbers last season than Revere, so that is another clue into which way Manuel is leaning.
Regardless of where Manuel places Revere in the lineup, they really need him to catch the ball in center field. There is plenty of uncertainty defensively on the corners with Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and potentially Delmon Young. Revere is going to have to cover a lot of ground.
Gardenhire said that shouldn't be a problem.
"He can just flat out run them down," Gardenhire said. "He's very athletic. Probably one of the more athletic guys you'll see. He is not afraid to go toward the wall. He's not afraid to dive.
The one thing we know is that he didn't have the strongest arm, so we worked on different ways of getting rid of the ball quickly, hitting the cutoff man and all those things. But you know what? He's an exciting baseball player with a great smile. He's going to be missed."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.