BY DON SCOTT
The long-time Reading Phils are now the Reading Fightin Phils, complete with a new logo, new old-time uniforms, but a returning manager in Dusty Wathan, who led the club into Eastern League playoffs last season with a 76-66 record.
As the 2013 season gets underway, Wathan, as expected, was enthusiastic about the group he has assembled, starting with the top Phillies prospect in lefty pitcher Jesse Biddle (Clearwater-10-6, 3.22 ERA), and catcher Cameron Rupp (Clearwater-.267, 10 HR, 49 RBI), a third round pick who was a Florida State League midseason and postseason All-Star.
“Rupp has come a long way and definitely has a future as a major league catcher,” said Wathan. “I heard a lot of good things about what he did last season, so I’m excited to see what he can do for us. Right now, it will be two and two with Sebastian Valle (Reading/Lehigh Valley-.240, 17 HR, 58 RBI), which is a good problem for us to have. When you have two guys who can catch every day that’s a big benefit, plus there’s always the DH to get some time in that way too.”
As for his pitching staff, in addition to Biddle, Wathan said, “Brody Colvin (Clearwater/Reading-6-10, 7.65 ERA) came up here with some high expectations, but has struggled the last year or two, but we really feel he can be a major league pitcher or he wouldn’t be in the rotation. Overall, this staff might even be better than last year’s, if that’s possible.”
Starters in addition to Biddle and Colvin will be David Buchanan (Reading-3-5, 3.86 ERA), Austin Wright (Clearwater-11-5, 3.47 ERA) and Seth Rosin (San Jose/Clearwater-2-2, 3.65 ERA). Rounding out the staff are Jay Johnson, Tyler Knigge, Hector Neris, J.C. Ramirez, Mauricio Robles, Kyle Simon and Juan Sosa.
“I think it’s a great thing for the organization when you don’t have a lot of guys coming back and that’s what we’re looking for,” said Wathan of his new faces. “We want to move guys along as quickly as possible. Hopefully these guys will push the ones who moved up from last year.”
As for the outfield, Wathan indicated Valle might even see some games out there along with the regular guys.
“Zach Collier (Clearwater-.269, 36 RBI, 35 SB) will play all three spots, but primarily in center,” said Wathan. “The other guys, Derrick Mitchell (GCL/Lehigh Valley-.197, 8 HR-38 RBI), Ron Welty (GCL/Aberdeen/Frederick/Bowie-.400, 13 HR, 55 RBI) and Anthony Hewitt (Clearwater-.241, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 13 SB) can also play all three positions. We like to do that so there is that flexibility when they move up.”
Switching to the infield it looks like Jim Murphy (.274, 17 HR, 85 RBI) at first, Albert Cartwright (.257, 40 RBI, 16 SB) at second, Edgar Duran (.253, 42 RBI, 15 SB) covering shortstop and Tyler Henson, who played in A-AA and AAA last year, at third. Filling in at short and second will be Troy Hanzawa (44 RBI), and Miguel Abreu (4 HR, 33 RBI) will play all three infield positions plus be available for outfield duty if needed.