After losing two of three this past weekend to the Atlanta Braves, it's almost safe to say that the Philadelphia Phillies are out of the playoff picture. Despite a 6-3 victory over the division-leading Washington Nationals Tuesday night, the Phillies remain 5.5 games out of the second wild-card spot.
With only eight games left, let's just say the odds aren't in the Phillies' favor.
So it may behoove Charlie Manuel to give the team's younger players a shot to see if they can fill any of the team's many needs. With the offseason looming, the Phils figure to be in the market for a third baseman, center fielder and a veteran bullpen arm. Possibly a starting pitcher, too.
Although seemingly adamant about not doing so, Manuel finally gave Eastern League MVP Darin Ruf his first major league start Tuesday night. It was a breath of fresh air, and though it might have signified that the end of the Phils' playoff chances is near, that start created hope, both for this year but primarily for next.
Since Ruf could be fighting for a major league job next year, it's important for the front office to get a good look at him, both offensively and defensively. If they feel he's ready, the Phils won't have to shop for a left fielder. Likewise, if they don't like what they see, you can add a left fielder to the offseason shopping list.
Along with Ruf, many of the Phillies' relief pitchers are young guys who will be competing for major league jobs in spring training. The outfield has a fight brewing as well. Aside from Ruf, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Jr. and Nate Schierholtz will be competing for starting jobs.
To give all the players a shot, especially the younger ones, Manuel will have to mix things up a bit. Here's how he can do just that.