The Phillies once rescued Greg Dobbs from the AL and turned him into a productive NL reservist. Jeff Larish, 28, could be given the same opportunity after signing a minor league deal with the Phils.
Larish, a blocked corner infielder and perennial 25th man candidate with Detroit and most recently with Oakland, hit .179/.267/.313 with two homers in 75 plate appearances between the Tigers and A’s last season. As usual, his minor league totals were much, much stronger, a .284/.375/.533 slash line in 385 plate appearances between Oakland and Detroit’s Triple-A affiliates, including 20 homers, the third time he’s topped 20 in a season. Slowed only by a season-ending wrist injury in '09, he’s been in and out of the majors since '08, producing a not-too terrible .224/.308/.380 career line in 276 plate appearances. Like Dobbs, he’s a left-handed hitter who came up through the chain without a true position and alternated between first and third, which meant that he’s been stuck behind Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers designated him for assignment midway through the season and the Athletics claimed him.
Beerleaguer: No minor signing, people. Look for Larish to make a strong case to fill the final bench spot out of spring training. The Phils need a backup for Placido Polanco and are looking for someone in the mold of Dobbs, circa 2007, to do some damage off the bench. Before the ‘09 season, the year he screwed up his wrist, Baseball America ranked Larish fifth among Tigers prospects, citing his raw power to the pull field, ability to crush a fastball, decent speed and good awareness between the bags. Defensively, he’s average at best, maybe a little below, which is all Dobbs ever was. He sounds like a scrappy student of the game, too.
Expect him to yo-yo between the big club and Triple-A. This is a great opportunity for Larish to thrive in a new league and a way for the Phillies to get slightly younger on the bench. I like the potential here.
Minor re-signings: The Phillies signed minor league deals with pitcher Nate Bump, first baseman/outfielder Tagg Bozied and outfielder Rich Thompson, all holdovers from last season. Bozied, in particular, had a terrific season in Reading, where he challenged for the Triple Crown and hit .315/.401/.631 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs.
Minor notes: The Phillies must protect several players on the 40-man roster by Saturday night or risk losing them to the Rule 5 draft. Reliever Justin De Fratus is expected to be protected, but former first-round pick Joe Savery, who is being converted to a first baseman, first baseman Matt Rizzotti and outfielder D’Arby Myers are candidates to escape.