Phillies may shake up outfield rotation

Venable, Lough among possible candidates to boost offense

April 16th, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Pete Mackanin has seen the numbers, which is why changes could be coming to the Phillies' outfield in the near future.

"You can't get around it," he said. "It's not good."

Phillies left fielders finished Saturday night's 8-1 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park with a .267 OPS, which ranked last in Major League Baseball. Phillies right fielders have a .411 OPS, which ranks 29th. Twelve games is a small sample size, but to put those numbers into perspective, the 1968 A's had a .555 OPS in left field and the 1978 A's had a .550 OPS in right field. Both are the lowest marks of any team in baseball from 1913-2015.

The Phillies' poor production in the corners is why Darin Ruf started in left field Saturday for the first time this season. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

"I just needed some kind of infusion of offense," Mackanin said before the game.

Ruf playing the outfield is something the Phillies repeatedly said they wanted to avoid as they emphasized defense in the offseason and Spring Training.

But every team has its breaking point, and a .267 OPS in left field is it.

"In the short term, if we don't show improvement, we'll probably make a change," Mackanin said. "We have to either get those guys going or do something."

Will Venable is a candidate. The Phillies signed him to a Minor League contract before the end of Spring Training. Venable, 33, is just 3-for-20 in six games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but he has an extensive track record in the big leagues.

Venable also can opt out of his contract May 1, if he is not on a big league roster. The Phillies could choose to give him a shot before potentially losing him.

David Lough, 30, also is an option after being one of the final cuts in Spring Training. He is hitting .280 (7-for-25) with one double, two RBIs and one stolen base in six games with Lehigh Valley. He also has big league experience.

Mackanin said the Phillies are not talking about top outfield prospect Nick Williams as a candidate. Williams, 22, is hitting .192 (5-for-26) with one double, one triple, and four RBIs in eight games with Lehigh Valley. He needs more time to develop in the Minor Leagues.