Mar 052011
Phillies utilityman Wilson Valdez

Phillies utilityman Wilson Valdez

By Justin Adkins:

On Friday, the Phillies defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-4.  The victory brought the Phillies spring record to 4-3.

Slugger Ryan Howard picked up his first spring home run as well as a couple RBIs. 

Starter Joe Blanton gave up two runs on four hits over 3 2/3 innings.  His most impressive accomplishment of the day was actually on defense, when he pulled off a look-what-I-found maneuver by fielding a groundball between his legs. 

“A lot of luck in there,” Blanton said. “I didn’t even know I caught it.”

So far this spring, Blanton has thrown 6 2/3 innings allowing two runs and six baserunners.  He’s looking decent so far and looks to be in better shape than last year. 

“I felt more comfortable [Friday], which I think is a positive step at this time,” Blanton said. 

Blanton did give up another first inning run, a troubling pattern of early struggles that hopefully he can find a way to work out of.  Helping to prevent further damage that inning was utilityman Wilson Valdez, the usual backup infielder who started in right field, who fired a laser to nail Pittsburgh’s Neil Walker while trying to go first-to-third on a single.

Valdez wasn’t even scheduled to be in Fort Myers for the game, but on Thursday he didn’t check the travel schedule and jumped on the wrong bus.  He ended up playing the final five innings of Thursday’s game in centerfield.  And it’s a good thing Phillies manager Charlie Manuel decided to use him in the outfield again or Friday’s game would have looked much worse for Blanton, who gave up a double and three singles before Valdez broke out the right-arm cannon.

While at first a bit strange to see a primarily career-infielder get a start in the outfield, it’s something  Manuel has considered before.

“Every day he would go out there during practice,” Manuel said. “Every day. He would catch balls and sometimes run from left-center all the way to right-center to catch balls. I used to think to myself, ‘I know he can play in the outfield.’ ”

Valdez capped off his day with a few hits and a stolen base.  While he doesn’t have Cliff Lee-level impact, the acquisition of — and willingness to stick with — Valdez is yet another testament to the skills of general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.

Not everyone was a happy camper Friday though.  Per in Tampa, Phillies lefty reliever JC Romero had his $190,000 Porsche stolen Thursday night while being serviced at local dealership.  That has to hurt.

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