CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies’ infield picture became a lot clearer Sunday afternoon when the team released Yuniesky Betancourt from his minor-league contract.
The move virtually assures that the Phillies will open the season with Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen as their two utility infielders, though nothing will be finalized until next Sunday afternoon when opening-day rosters have to be filed with the commissioner’s office.
Betancourt, who has been a regular shortstop on three major league clubs, hit .447 and played three positions in camp. Phillies officials would like to have kept Betancourt as infield depth, but he had an escape clause in his contract if he wasn’t added to the roster by Sunday and utilized it.
A number of teams, including the Cardinals, Yankees, Giants and Dodgers, have a need for utility infield help and Betancourt could end up with one of those clubs.
“He’ll play in the big leagues,” GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “It was a difficult decision. Yuni played great. The other guys played great. It’s an evaluation of what we feel is best for our club.”
Amaro said he had some trade discussions about Betancourt on Sunday, but nothing came to fruition.
The Phils’ infield now looks set with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Galvis and Frandsen.
Decisions remain in the outfield, bullpen and at catcher.
Erik Kratz will be the opening day catcher. Steven Lerud and Humberto Quintero are locked in a close battle to be the second catcher.
The final bullpen job appears to be down to Phillippe Aumont and Mike Stutes. Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes appear to be on their way to winning jobs. They would join Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and Chad Durbin in the bullpen.
The fifth and final outfield job is still up in the air. Rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte could end up in the role, but it’s also possible that the Phils could add an outfielder from outside the organization. Seattle’s Caspar Wells and Boston’s Ryan Sweeney are two outfielders that could be available in the coming days.
“Our eyes are open in the infield and the outfield,” Amaro said.
The Phils’ outfield will change again in late April or early May when Delmon Young, recovering from ankle surgery, is ready to go.
It would be surprising if the Phillies added another infielder before opening day. In Frandsen, they have a solid bat off the bench. In Galvis, they have an excellent defender who can play second, shortstop and third base. He can even get by in the outfield in a pinch.
“Freddy is a plus defender with great instincts,” Amaro said. “We like what he brings to the table.
“Frandsen is a good offensive player.”
Frandsen, 30, hit .338 with an .834 OPS in 195 at-bats with the Phils during the second half of 2012. He opened the season at Triple A,where he hit .302 with 34 doubles in 391 at-bats over 99 games.
Galvis, 23, has impressed team officials since the day he signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela. Manuel fell hard for him last season when he held down second base in place of the injured Utley for two-plus months last season. Though Galvis projects as Jimmy Rollins’ eventual successor at shortstop, he could be the club’s second baseman next season if Utley is not re-signed.
Galvis does not believe part-time duty will hurt his development (see story). Manuel will do his best to make sure Galvis gets playing time.
“Jimmy played 156 games last season,” Manuel said. “That’s a lot of baseball for him. I will get him off his feet some. Utley won’t play 162. Hopefully we’ll play good enough baseball where we can rest people in our infield.”
Betancourt, 31, hit .447 (21 for 47) with 14 RBIs in 17 spring-training games with the Phils. He thanked the club for the opportunity to audition and headed out the door, likely to another club.