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Spring Training: Juan Pierre a favorite for a roster spot

Veteran outfield taking advantage of opportunity

We knew that the one thing that would drastically change in 2012 for the Philadelphia Phillies was the bench. The addition of guys like Jim Thome (stats) and Ty Wigginton (stats) figured to give Charlie Manuel a few bats to chose from off the bench more threatening to opposing pitchers than guys like Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez.

In January the Phillies signed veteran outfielder Juan Pierre (stats) to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. According to a story by Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer News yesterday, Pierre seems to be taking advantage of the opportunity.

Pierre also discussed his past with Philadelphia, as an opponent in some key games. Pierre was a part of the Florida Marlins team in 2003 that stayed just a nudge in front of the Phillies in the NL Wild Card hunt. He was also on the field for the Dodgers when Rollins stunned Jonathan Broxton with a game-winning double in game four of the 2009 NLCS.

“I don’t know how the Philly fans are going to take to me,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re going to like me or hate me, because they’ve said everything in the book to me over the course of my career. They used to call me Juanita.”

It is probably safe to say that as long as Pierre is in a Phillies uniform, and being a somewhat productive team member, fans will take kindly to him despite his role in the past. And according to Brookover, Pierre has a very decent chance of being on the Opening Day roster when the team comes north.

General manage Ruben Amaro reportedly informed Pierre that there would be a roster spot for the taking in the likely event Ryan Howard starts the season on the disabled list, still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in game five of the NLDS last fall. Even though Howard seems to be doing well (he’ll be in Philadelphia today for a check up), the odds are very good that he starts the year on the disabled list to fully recover.

“I just want to make the team,” Pierre said. “That’s it. That’s my goal right there. Once I do that, then I’ll think about the other part.”

If Pierre makes the team, what kind of role will he play? It may depend on how his spring goes, but he could realistically be a good guy to use in centerfield when Shane Victorino needs a day off, and if he still has a sliver of the speed that recorded an American League leading 68-stolen bases in 2010 then he could be a good fit as a pinch runner late in the game.

Quotes and photo provided by Philly.com.

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