Minor League free agent update

The Phillies haven’t made a big free agent move – yet – but they have been busy getting minor league free agents signed and in some cases, re-signed to deals for 2011. They’ve also kept themselves pretty busy filling out the coaching staffs for their minor league clubs, but there is still a lot to decide.

First came utility man Pete Orr, who started his career with the Atlanta Braves and has spent the past couple seasons in the Washington Nationals organization, with a couple cups of coffee back in the majors. Orr would likely take over at second base for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, if he doesn’t make the club out of spring training.

Actually, the infield at Lehigh Valley is starting to take shape. Shortstop Brian Bocock figures to return as the everyday shortstop. There have been some rumblings that Bocock might be sacrificed and taken off of the 40 man roster in favor of another player who needs to be protected for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, but so far, Bocock is still around and it actually figures that he will return to Lehigh Valley.

First baseman Matt Rizzotti needs to be added to the roster before midnight tonight or the Phillies risk losing him in the Rule 5 Draft. After the numbers that he put up in 2010, it’s likely that he will get a spot on the roster, but his ceiling is pretty limited in Philly, with another left-handed first baseman pretty well established with the big league club and the fact that Rizzotti is slightly defensively challenged and isn’t a candidate to change positions. It figures that Rizzotti or possibly, Tagg Bozied, who was re-signed today, will be at first for Lehigh Valley, leaving fan favorite Andy Tracy to likely sign elsewhere.

Another fan favorite, outfielder Rich Thompson, returns to the Phillies organization in 2011. Thompson has played for Lehigh Valley in each of the first four seasons that the franchise has been in existence and has hit a combined .269 with 79 stolen bases in 89 attempts.

The IronPigs will welcome Jeff Larish, who has played a number of times at Coca-Cola Park over the past few seasons as a member of the Toledo Mud Hens. In his career, Larish has played 12 games at Coca-Cola Park and has hit .333 (15-for-45) with four home runs and nine RBI. Larish also played in the majors last season for both the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s. In fact, Larish has spent part of each of the last three seasons in the majors, playing in 101 games and hitting .224 with eight home runs.

Lehigh Valley will also have catcher Dane Sardinha returning in 2011 after he re-signed with the Phillies and they’ve added Erik Kratz, who last played at Coca-Cola Park as a member of the International League All-Star squad. It was during that game that Kratz got word that he was joining the Pittsburgh Pirates after the all-star break for his first opportunity in the majors.

Lehigh Valley will likely also be home to right-hander Eddie Bonine and left-hander Dan Meyer, who both signed minor league deals with the Phillies. Both pitchers are relievers and figure to pitch out of the IronPigs bullpen if they don’t secure a spot with the big league club out of spring training.

The Phillies also announced a number of spring training invitations that have been handed out.

Infielder Josh Barfield has logged some time in the majors and hit .294 at Triple-A Portland (San Diego) last season. He might be in the mix for a spot with Lehigh Valley, especially if Bocock doesn’t make it through the winter as a member of the Phillies organization.

Pitcher Ryan Feierabend, 25, missed the 2009 season thanks to Tommy John surgery and worked at three different minor league levels in the Seattle Mariners organization last summer. The lefty has logged 106 major league innings without much success, compiling a 7.22 ERA and a 2-11 record with Seattle.

Left-hander Juan Perez was at Triple-A Albuquerque in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization last season, but made it to the majors with Pittsburgh in 2006 and 2007, posting a 5.17 ERA in 24 relief appearances.

The Phillies have also invited a couple of outfielders to camp. Matt Miller and Brandon Moss. Fans might remember Moss as a member of both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Red Sox and has played all or part of the past four seasons in the majors, hitting a combined .238 in 244 games. Miller has yet to reach the majors and has spent the past three seasons at Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Rockies organization. Miller came to Coca-Cola Park as a Pacific Coast League all-star last season and led Colorado Springs in hits (165) and runs (90), while hitting .345 with runners in scoring position and .325 overall.

The aforementioned Bonine, Bozied, Kratz, Larish, Meyer, Orr and Sardinha have also received spring training invitations.

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