Seven minor league veterans, including A-Rod's early season replacement in 2009, will be invited to Phillies spring training in Clearwater. Here's a look at three you haven't seen before.Chris Duffy, OF: Duffy, 29, started the season with Milwaukee, where he hit .125/.222/.156 in 19 games before he was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in late May, where he appeared in only three games before going temporarily inactive for the rest of the season due to personal issues. He'll slice the occasional home run, otherwise he's your basic banjo-hitting minor league center fielder with OK athleticism and a schooled approach, hitting .269/.328/.361 during his days in Pittsburgh, swiping 41 bags. He should have discovered Japan by now.
Bill White, LHP: White, 31, did not pitch professionally this past season, last pitching 2008 as a member of the Texas Rangers organization where he combined to go 4-1 with six saves and a 3.48 ERA in 51 relief appearances between triple-A Oklahoma and single-A Bakersfield. He appeared in eight games for Texas in 2008. Over nine minor league seasons, he's 19-23 with a 4.66 ERA. Think Allentown, or even Reading. Definitely not Philadelphia.
Cody Ransom, INF: Ransom, 33, split the 2009 season between New York and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He began the year as the Yankees' opening day third baseman, filling in for Alex Rodriguez as he recovered from hip surgery. With New York, Ransom hit .190/.256/.329 in 31 games, including 18 starts at third, two at shortstop and one each at first and second base. He's appeared in parts of seven Major League seasons between the Giants (2001-04), Astros (2007) and Yanks (2008-09). Aside from filling in for A-Rod, his modus operandi is that of a Triple-A lifer, hitting .247/.325/.446 in parts of nine seasons at the minor league's highest level. He has good power from the right side, hitting over 20 home runs the last three seasons in Triple-A, plus he has speed. However, he has no plate discipline to speak of, whiffing 1,195 times in 4,802 lifetime minor league plate appearances. With the Yankees last season, he struck out 25 times in 86 plate appearances. He's another guy who should seriously consider Japan.
The Phillies also invited Andy Tracy, DeWayne Wise, Wilson Valdez and Paul Hoover to spring training. Valdez, as discussed, is slightly worse than Juan Castro, but since he'll have the luxury of staying fresh an entire season in Triple-A, could creep into the mix late in '10 if Castro starts collecting too much dust, which is how it worked for Miguel Cairo and Eric Bruntlett a year ago. Ransom, as a righty hitter with pop, versatility, athleticism and experience, is positioned pretty well in the Phillies' chain if someone like Greg Dobbs gets hurt again.
Ex-Phillie report: The Mets have signed third baseman Mike Cervenak to a minor deal. Cervenak collected his first MLB hit with the Phils in 2008 as a September call-up. Meanwhile, the Astros are helping themselves to more of the Phillies' sloppy seconds, including reliever Gary Majewski and starter Gustavo Chacin, both signed to minor deals. Finally, T.J. Bohn, who appeared in a couple games for the Phillies in 2008, has signed on with the ChiSox.
Phillies sign Colombian catcher? Wanted to pass along an unconfirmed report that the Phils have signed 16-year-old Colombian catcher Jorge Alfaro in the amount of 2,500 million Colombian pesos, which is a record signing for that country, according to a report in a Colombian paper. A follow-up Twitter report from an ESPN senior scribe said the catcher worked out with the Phillies yesterday, but no deal has been struck. That figure, by the way, translates to $1.25 million US dollars.