MIAMI - One of the reasons Shane Victorino is leading in the voting for the final roster spot on the National League All-Star team is his popularity among the fans, who are in charge of making the selection. And one of the big reasons for that popularity is his fun-loving attitude, which was on display yesterday when he was able to crack a joke at his own expense while discussing the blooper-reel play that led to his being sidelined for last night's 1-0 win over the Marlins.
In Sunday's loss to the Blue Jays, Victorino caught a sixth-inning fly ball by Juan Rivera and attempted to throw home, where Jose Bautista was headed after tagging up at third. But as the Gold Glove centerfielder let go of the ball, he stumbled on the turf at the Rogers Center, falling flat on his face as the ball failed to reach even the infield.
The nose dive was reminscent of the one Domonic Brown took after making an awkward diving catch last month at Citizens Bank Park, after which Victorino had some fun at the rookie rightfielder's expense.
"He made the out," said Victorino, who stayed in the game despite injuring his ankle and jamming his right thumb on the play. "I didn't make the [play], other than catching the ball and then embarassing myself on top of that."
Victorino's pride wasn't the only thing wounded. He was out of the lineup last night with a sore hand, which he injured while attempting to break his fall. But he said the ankle is fine, and his hand is just "a little sore." Rookie Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez started in centerfield and batted eighth last night, going 1-for-4 with the game-winning RBI single.
The Phillies can ill afford to lose Victorino, given the way he has played for the majority of the season. Over his last 27 games, Victorino is hitting .350 with a .442 on base percentage, .592 slugging percentage, three home runs, four triples and eight doubles. Heading into last night's game, he was leading the team in batting average (.303), on base percentage (.376), slugging percentage (.524), OPS (.900) and runs (53) and was tied for second with Raul Ibanez with nine home runs.
Manager Charlie Manuel said Victorino was not available to pinch-hit last night.
"It's swollen," Manuel said. "Evidently he jammed it, or it's a bone bruise or whatever. I think gripping the bat would be hard."
Don't expect to see Ryan Madson closing out games until after the All-Star Break. The veteran righthander has yet to throw a bullpen session since the Phillies shut him down with inflammation in his hand on June 19, and pitching coach Rich Dubee said yesterday that it likely would not occur for at least a few more days. With seven games remaining before the break, the Phillies seem content to hold off on activating their top reliever until their first series of the second half, which begins in New York on July 15.
Madson, who injured the hand when he was hit by a line drive against the Rangers on May 20, has converted 15 out of 16 save opportunities with a 2.03 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 31 innings this season.
Dubee said the bruise affects Madson's ability to grip the ball (the righthander made 13 appearances after the Rangers game).
"We'll see," manager Charlie Manuel said when asked if Madson would return before the break. "[Head athletic trainer Scott] Sheridan has been doing treatment on his hand every day and he says it's getting better."
Manuel said the team will likely decide on a target return date within the next day or 2.
There are no indications that the Phillies view Juan Rivera, whom the Blue Jays designated for assignment after Sunday's game, as a potential upgrade for their outfield situation. Rivera, a righthander who hit .287 with 25 home runs for the Angels in 2009, is regarded as a horrific defender, meaning his only contribution would be as a righthanded bat off the bench. The 32-year-old has always hit lefties well, and is 18-for-55 with four doubles, two home runs and eight walks against them this season. But his defensive limitations would be a concern even in a platoon situation, and Rivera has limited experience as a pinch-hitter. Assuming Rivera is not traded or claimed on waivers, any club who signs him to a major league deal will owe him only a prorated portion of the $414,000 veterans minimum.
But the Phillies will likely have better options available to them over the next couple of months if they choose to add a righthanded bat, whether it is before the July 31 nonwaiver traded deadline, or during August, when pricey veterans are often available via waivers.