CLEARWATER, Fla. - One of the more intriguing players to land in the Phillies organization out of last year's draft is an outfielder-turned-second-baseman who pitched with both hands in high school and currently rides to practice on a beach cruiser he purchased from Target.
"It's actually my second bike," Andrew Pullin said as he flipped down his kickstand and took a seat in the shade on a hellaciously muggy Florida afternoon. "The first one was stolen."
Pullin is the kind of player who makes personnel men dream. He is not especially big (6 feet tall) or especially strong (a lean 185 pounds) or especially fast ("I'm not really a quick guy - pretty average," is the scouting report he gives himself). But he has a quick, line-drive swing, a good approach at the plate, and the kind of quiet intensity that breeds improvement.
"He's a baseball player," Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "He really likes to play the game."
A fifth-round pick in last June's amateur draft, Pullin turned down a scholarship to the University of Oregon to sign with the Phillies. In 41 games in the Gulf Coast League in 2012, he hit .321 with a sterling .403 on-base percentage, tallying 10 doubles and two home runs in 140 at-bats. The Phillies drafted him as a leftfielder, but late last summer decided to move him to second base, a position that could be a question mark for years to come with Chase Utley scheduled to hit free agency after the season.
Pullin had never played second base before the Phillies suggested the move, but he has embraced the switch.
"I like it a lot better," he said. "I just feel more comfortable at second. You're more into the game."
Considering Pullin's background, his desire to be in the middle of the action is not surprising. A natural righthanded thrower, he began to experiment with his left hand in the fifth grade. By high school, he was a full-fledged switch-pitcher, using an ambidextrous six-fingered glove made by Louisville Slugger that he would alternate, depending on the batter he was facing. As a righthander, his fastball topped out at around 90 mph. But he also was effective as a lefthander, mixing an 80 mph fastball with a curveball.
Thus far, Pullin has impressed the organization's minor league talent evaluators with the way he has handled the transition to second base. Currently participating in extended spring training, he is expected to start the season at Williamsport in the short-season New York-Penn League. His future will be dictated by his performance at the plate. While the Phillies do not expect him to pack on much more muscle, they do believe his swing has the potential to develop a little bit of power. Given the organization's relative lack of depth in the middle infield, he will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
The Phillies' spring training complex is a happening place right now.
Roy Halladay is in town rehabbing the shoulder he had surgically repaired last week. Mike Adams is scheduled to throw live batting practice today and could pitch in a game next week in what he hopes will be a quick return from a back injury that has sidelined him since May 10.
And yesterday, righthander Carlos Zambrano made his second start in an extended spring training game, throwing 64 pitches over four innings, allowing one run on four hits with four strikeouts and one walk. Zambrano could make his minor league debut Tuesday when Class A Clearwater is at home, although the Phillies have yet to announce his next step.
As expected, the Phillies promoted righthander Mike Stutes from Triple A Lehigh Valley to fill the roster spot vacated when Phillippe Aumont was optioned to the minors. Stutes has a 3.33 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 11 walks in 27 innings. He has allowed one run in his last 15 2/3 innings.
Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: Chase Utley heads to the disabled list. What will it mean at this crucial point in the season?