Without fail, Juan Pierre is the first Phillies player in the dugout before a game. He walked up the tunnel at 3:23 p.m. Monday and saw a tarp covering the rain-soaked infield at Citizens Bank Park. But it was dry enough to do his 10 minutes of sprinting in right field.
"It's just something I've always done," Pierre said. "No rhyme or reason."
He could say the same thing about going unsigned until Jan. 27. Once every team in baseball had passed on offering a guaranteed major-league contract, Pierre said he did not wonder about his ability.
"But it didn't matter what I thought," Pierre said.
One-fifth of the way into the 2012 season, Pierre ranks as one of the few offensive bright spots for the Phillies. He was signed off the scrap heap and ranked 10th in the National League (minimum 100 plate appearances) with a .402 on-base percentage entering Monday.
He started Monday for the 22d time in 36 games.
"I don't think anybody predicted I'd have this many at-bats at this point," Pierre said. "Funny how some things work."
Just ask manager Charlie Manuel, who has raved about Pierre. His latest statement says enough: "It's hard not to play him," Manuel said.
Pierre, of course, has benefitted from luck. His batting average on balls in play was a robust .384 entering Monday. The major-league average was .291.
It certainly could even out over the course of 162 games. So far, nothing can diminish the surprise production the Phillies have received from Pierre.
"I felt like I could still play at a high level," Pierre said. "All the other teams didn't think so. I never doubted my skill set."
Opinions about Kyle Kendrick tend to sour faster than milk left on the kitchen counter overnight, and after blowing a save in his last outing against the New York Mets six days ago, he knows he is not the most popular man in the Phillies' battered bullpen right now.
Kendrick, in his first bullpen appearance after making three starts in place of Cliff Lee, allowed five runs in just one inning that night against the Mets. He said afterward that he erred by not throwing a bullpen session after his May 4 start.
When Kendrick was in the bullpen last season, he still threw side sessions once every three days if he had not pitched and he failed to do that before his outing against the Mets. Kendrick has thrown two bullpen sessions since his appearance against the Mets, including one Monday. He said he typically throws between 15 and 20 pitches.
Now, he can't wait for his next chance.
"I want to get back out there as soon as possible," he said. "I'm a lot better than that."
Kendrick would also like another chance to pitch with a lead in the late innings.
"Right now," he said, "I know they don't have trust because I didn't pitch good enough."
Manuel was asked if he'd call for Kendrick again in that kind of situation.
"I look at Kyle as a spot starter, a long man, and he's a guy you use at the end if you need innings," Manuel said. "That's kind of how I look at him. That doesn't mean he can't pitch somewhere [at the end]."
Righthander Mike Stutes has been on the disabled list for 23 days with soreness in his shoulder, and Manuel indicated it could be a while until Stutes resumes throwing. . . . Roy Halladay turned 35 on Monday. He celebrated by throwing a bullpen session. Halladay is under contract through 2013 with a $20 million vesting option for 2014.