Camargo battling Bohm in 'friendly competition' for 3B job

March 24th, 2022

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Maybe Johan Camargo will be the next Panamanian to create some big Phillies moments.

Camargo got goosebumps on Thursday morning as he spoke about former Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, who played in Philadelphia from 2006-16. Chooch is a Philly legend. The Panamanians met once in 2017, when Ruiz spent the final season of his career with the Mariners. Camargo, who played for the Braves at the time, raised his arms and shouted “Chooch!” when he saw him on the field.

Ruiz raised his arms and said hello back.

“I get very excited to know I’m wearing the same colors that he wore back in the day,” Camargo said through an interpreter. “That guy is so cool, I can feel his good vibes all the way here.”

Camargo could be wearing much more than a Phillies uniform in 2022. He could play a surprisingly significant role. Because while Alec Bohm entered camp as the favorite to be the Phillies’ Opening Day third baseman -- and even though he remains the favorite with 15 days to go -- he has not locked up the job.

“Obviously, you know, we’re hoping that Alec runs with it, right?” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “And he has a leg up on everyone. But I mean, again, this is a performance business, and I see him making improvements and we’re happy with what we see in his work. But yeah, I mean, it’s something that’s not etched in stone.”

So, keep a close eye on Camargo, especially following Wednesday’s NBC Sports Philadelphia report citing “credible buzz” that Bohm could be used in a trade as the Phillies look to tinker their roster. Camargo, 28, has impressed the Phillies this spring. They liked him enough to sign him to a one-year, $1.4 million contract minutes before the lockout started in December.

“We saw it as a piece that could really help us,” Girardi said. “He had a great Triple-A season [in 2021], and he’s had success in the big leagues, too. He’s just kind of been in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Camargo hit .272 with 19 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .806 OPS in 524 plate appearances in 2018 with the Braves. He has +5 Defensive Runs Saved in 1,416 2/3 innings at third base, according to FanGraphs. In comparison, Bohm has -19 DRS in 1,134 career innings at third. But Camargo lost his job when the Braves signed Josh Donaldson before the 2019 season. Austin Riley then seized control of Atlanta’s hot corner in 2020 and emerged last season as an NL MVP candidate.

But Philadelphia might be the place for Camargo to re-emerge. There is real opportunity here.

“Honestly, I just focus on myself,” Camargo said. “I just want to work hard, play hard. To me it’s a friendly competition. But it’s part of the job. Everyone that plays this game is aware of that.”

Camargo hit .326 with 19 homers, 67 RBIs and a .958 OPS in 436 plate appearances last season with Triple-A Gwinnett. He was hitless in 16 regular-season at-bats with the Braves, but he appeared on the Braves’ postseason rosters in the NLDS, NLCS and World Series.

He was part of their World Series celebration in Atlanta. He will get a ring. And now he will try to beat his former team.

“It’s emotional because of what I accomplished with the Braves, but now that I’m with the Phillies, I have new goals,” Camargo said. “To me, anything is possible. There are good times, bad times, ups and downs that you learn from. My mindset is always to play my hardest and try to take advantage of every opportunity that I can. That’s life. Sometimes you’re doing well, the next year it doesn’t happen, but it can be the other way around, too.”