Mike Fontenot is glad to be back in baseball, albeit at the triple-A level with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Fontenot, who played parts of six seasons in the majors, was released by the San Francisco Giants at the end of the exhibition season.
He signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies on April 13 and joined the IronPigs on Monday after spending time in Clearwater at extended spring training.
Last season he played shortstop, second base, and third base for the Giants and batted .227 with a .304 on-base percentage in 220 at bats.
"This is a winning organization," Fontenot said while speaking about the Phillies in a phone interview. "I had a few choices and I wanted to come here."
Fontenot said he has an opt-out in his contract in July, but he isn't thinking about that. His only goal is to work on his game, and he hopes to make an impression on the Phillies.
Fontenot, who will turn 32 in June, never thought about retiring after his release.
"Baseball has been pretty much my life," he said. "Unfortunately an opportunity in the big leagues didn't work out and now I am getting my work in every day and looking to improve each day."
He said there will be plenty of competition at triple A.
"The pitchers here are still moving the ball around, throwing breaking pitches," he said. "A lot of times in the big leagues they hit their spots more, but so far the pitching here has been pretty good and it's great to be back facing pitching."
After competing last year in the Gulf Coast League, 20-year-old outfielder Brian Pointer has gotten off to a good start at Lakewood.
Pointer, who hit .278 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 47 games last season, entered the weekend batting .297 with four home runs, 15 RBIs, and a .390 on-base percentage.
"I am very excited with the way he has played," said Lakewood manager and former Phillies second baseman Mickey Morandini. "He's a young kid in a league where older kids are and he's holding his own. He is hardworking and goes about his business the right way."
Morandini has used the 6-foot, 190-pound Pointer in both left and right field, and as a designated hitter. Pointer, who has been hitting in the No. 2 hole, throws and bats lefthanded.
"He's done a good job and has shown a lot of power," Morandini said of the 28th-round draft choice in 2010. "He's starting to hit the ball the other way."
The key will be his continued development against lefthanded pitching.
"He's doing a good job laying off breaking stuff down and out of the strike zone," Morandini said. "The more he sees lefthanded pitching, the better he will be."
Reading first baseman Darin Ruf has hit .300 at every level, and this season he's maintaining that form. Ruf, a 2009 graduate of Creighton University, where he was a 20th-round selection of the Phillies that year, entered the weekend batting .368 with six doubles, two home runs, and nine RBIs.
He will turn 26 on July 28, older than many prospects in double A, and Ruf understands the urgency needed.
"Obviously I am going to be older for every level I will be," Ruf said. "Every season has to be treated [as] make or break, not to add any more pressure, but it's the way I have to approach everything."
After hitting .308 with 17 home runs and 82 RBIs last season for Clearwater, Ruf competed in the Arizona Fall League. He said he started slowly, but picked it up in the end. In the AFL, Ruf hit .239 with three home runs and 14 RBIs. He also had a .363 on-base percentage.
"It took me a little time in Arizona to get used to a little better pitching, the quicker pace to the game, the speed of the players," Ruf said. "That was definitely an advantage to go there and I have 30-40 games on guys who are starting their first year at double A."
The Phillies jumped third baseman Cody Asche a level, moving him to Clearwater after he played last season for Williamsport.
Despite hitting .192 with two home runs and 19 RBIs at Williamsport, Asche, who turn 22 on June 30, is hitting .283 for Clearwater. He was a fourth-round draft choice in 2011 out of the University of Nebraska.