INTERESTING GUY, this Chris Coste.
He goes 4-for-5, raises his batting average to .400, hits a home run on the first day his wife and daughter return to Philadelphia from North Dakota, helps spark the Phillies to a 10-2 win over the Astros in just his fifth start of the season, then afterward says no, thank you, he would not like to be a starting catcher in the major leagues.
He isn't just ambivalent about playing every day.
In all honesty, he would rather not.
"I'm one of those rare guys where it's almost like, the more I play, the worse hitter I become," said Coste, who had three RBI while giving regular catcher Carlos Ruiz an afternoon off. "If it ever came to where I had to be a starter somewhere, then obviously I would embrace it. But nobody roots for Carlos Ruiz more than me, not just as a teammate, but because I know his success helps me out. If he does poorly or gets injured and they start looking at a minor league catcher, it directly affects my situation. If it ever gets to a situation where it was me sharing time with someone, it would probably be better than being a starter."
When you've spent 11 years in the independent and minor leagues and had what looked to be a locked-in roster spot snatched away on the eve of the regular season, as Coste did the previous 2 years, you tend to keep one eye over your shoulder on the guys sneaking up behind you.
But with performances like yesterday, the 35-year-old player/author makes it less and less likely that he will ever have something to worry about.
The Phillies entered the game needing to see some life from an offense that has looked lost without its top two hitters in the order.
Since shortstop Jimmy Rollins sprained his left ankle 10 days ago, the Phillies had averaged 3.9 runs per game, almost a run per game below their output when they had Rollins in the lineup. They had scored fewer than five runs in four of seven games.
Timely hitting is key in close contests, and with 10 of their first 15 games decided by three runs or fewer, they often did not get it.
That changed yesterday.
The top of the order reached base, the middle of the order cleared them off, and for one of the few times since Rollins and Shane Victorino (calf) suffered their respective injuries, everything worked as it should.
The result was the Phillies' most lopsided win of the season. They rapped 16 hits, tagged four home runs and built a cushion plenty big enough to take advantage of another strong outing by righthander Brett Myers.
So Taguchi and Greg Dobbs - the seventh combination manager Charlie Manuel has used at the top of the order since Rollins went down - combined to go 4-for-10 with three runs scored. Leftfielder Pat Burrell, hitting .373, went 2-for-4 with two RBI and hit back-to-back home runs with first baseman Ryan Howard in the sixth. Every Phillies regular other than shortstop Eric Bruntlett had at least two hits, including Howard, who raised his average to .211 by going 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.
All of which complemented Myers, who struck out eight, allowed just one run on five hits in seven innings, and improved to 2-1.
"Everybody chipped in," Burrell said. "The one and two guys got on base and led the way for the rest of us. It's important, especially with Jimmy and Shane being out."
And some of those guys made a case for more playing time. Taguchi, the fifth leadoff hitter the team has used this season, went 2-for-5 and scored a run. Manuel said afterward Taguchi will start tonight against Mets lefthander Johan Santana, which means either he or Jayson Werth will be in center, and the other in right.
With Rollins likely returning to the lineup tomorrow, the Phillies probably won't be so pressed for a leadoff hitter as they have been.
Does Taguchi have a shot to play his way into the regular lineup while Victorino finishes out his stint on the disabled list with a strained calf?
"Keep playing good," Manuel said. "There's a chance for everybody if they hit and play good. Beat somebody out. It's still a game, isn't it?"
As for Coste, Manuel said he doesn't envision him as a 7-day-a-week catcher. But after Coste's performance yesterday, Manuel did say the veteran could earn some more playing time.
Coste hit a double in the third that drove in Burrell and gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead. In the fourth, after the Astros intentionally walked Geoff Jenkins, he hit a single. In the eighth, with Jenkins on second after a double, Coste hit a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left-center.
Might he have earned himself a start tonight against the Mets?
"I'll kind of make that decision [today]," Manuel said. "There's no sense in rushing into it. We'll let 'Costey' think about it a while."
Whatever he decides is OK with Coste, who has been a teammate of Ruiz since their days with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. Coste often has said Ruiz is the first catcher he knows whom he deserved to play behind.
"When you are only playing sporadically, for some reason your focus is a little bit better because you know that every at-bat means a little bit more," Coste said. "I could never ask for anything more than I have right now."
had an MRI yesterday morning to check the progress of his ankle. The results were what the Phillies expected, and assistant general manager
Ruben Amaro Jr.
said there is a good chance the shortstop will play tomorrow afternoon . . .
trimmed his ERA to 3.96 . . . The Phillies, 8-8, can get above .500 for the first time this season tonight. *
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.