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Pierre earns big-league job

The Sports Xchange

--OF Juan Pierre had his contract purchased by the Phillies, who announced that he had made the Opening Day roster. Pierre's one-year, $800,000 deal could go up another $300,000 if he gets sufficient playing time. Pierre, 34, played 158 games for the White Sox last year, hitting .279/.329/.327 with two homers, 50 RBI. He led the league in getting caught stealing for the seventh time in his career, getting nabbed on 17 of 44 attempts in 2011.

--C Erik Kratz was optioned to Class AAA Lehigh Valley. He was a longshot to unseat incumbent Brian Schneider as the Phillies' backup catcher, but a fight never really materialized.

--General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had heard enough about the team's alleged disconnect with Chase Utley. Amaro spent nearly 30 minutes March 26 explaining that his All-Star second baseman was honest in describing his health, and said both sides thought he'd be ready for Opening Day. The Phillies had planned to gradually work Utley into spring activities, but eventually conceded that he hadn't progressed enough to play. On March 19, Utley was in Phoenix to consult a physical therapist.

"I honestly believed, we still had Chase Utley playing for us Opening Day up until he said, 'I've got to go see another specialist because I'm not feeling well enough,'" Amaro said. The general manager was angered at the idea the Phillies misled fans regarding the status of Utley, who often avoids speaking to reporters, and rarely talks about medical issues. Utley is out indefinitely because of chondromalacia, a wearing down of the cartilage beneath the kneecap, in his left knee. He missed the first 46 games of the 2011 season with the same ailment in his right knee.

"I'm not trying to deceive anybody," Amaro said. "Why would I lie to the public? How is that going to make the organization's relationship with the public better? What benefit would I have to tell you Chase is fine when I know that he's not?"

--1B Jim Thome has ramped up his reps at first base in the final week of spring training. Thome played six innings at first base in the Phillies 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on March 29; it was the third time in five days that the 41-yeard-old Thome played first base in the last full week of exhibition games.

Thome, who hasn't played first base regularly since 2005, could help fill the gap in the Phillies lineup left by the injured Chase Utley and Ryan Howard if he can play first base at least once a week this season. "There have been times after I play where I do get a little sore here and there, but for the most part, recovery wise, I've been recovering pretty well," Thome said.

--1B Ryan Howard worked out without a protective boot on his left foot for the first time in a month on March 22. Howard had left Achilles surgery in October and had a setback in late February when an infection had to be treated at the site of the surgical wound.

Howard has resumed light baseball activities, but endured a month-long stay away form hitting while wearing the protective boot. He isn't likely to return to games until late May or June.

--RHP Mike Stutes stayed behind in Clearwater, Fla., when the Phillies broke camp on Sunday, April 1. Stutes has been battling right shoulder soreness and took a few days off from his throwing program in the final week of exhibition games. The 25-year-old Stutes pitched in nine Grapefruit League games. He allowed at least one run in each of his last three appearances. But Stutes was confident he'd be ready by Opening Day (April 5 in Pittsburgh). "At first, I thought it was just a little dead-arm stint, a little spring training stuff," Stutes said. "It continued to progress. But it's nothing to really be alarmed about."

5 -- Stolen bases in five attempts this spring for veteran OF Scott Podsednik, who is in Phillies camp on a minor league contract. Podsednik was hitting .347 (17-for-49) in 26 games, but was in position to be the odd man out in the Phillies' Opening Day roster shuffle after the team added Juan Pierre to the active roster.

"I'll know when Chase is feeling much better when Chase is taking ground balls, hitting and doing the things that are necessary and that when we'll have a better idea for when he'll be back. He's going to be back. I just don't know when. And I don't think he does." -- General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., on the uncertainty that has surrounded All-Star second baseman Chase Utley's chronic knee injury.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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