Phillies round out club with trade for Pence

Phillies round out club with trade for Pence
July 30, 2011, 12:55 am
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Charlie Manuel said he wanted a hitter, a good hitter.

Will Hunter Pence do the trick?

Hes a .300 hitter, Manuel said. Hes got some power. Hes a good player. I like him. Yes. I like him quite a bit.

Manuel got his hitter, his lineup upgrade and a proven rightfielder when the Phillies acquired Pence from the Houston Astros for four players on Friday night.

Pence, 28, was pulled from the Astros game in Milwaukee and hugged Houston teammates when the trade went down. He is expected to arrive in Philadelphia in time to play right field and bat fifth against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night. He will wear No. 3.

Despite an inconsistent offense, the Phillies have the best record in the majors. They hope Pence in the player that completes their roster for a big October run.

We always try to address our needs, Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in announcing the deal. We feel this was the missing piece.

Pence will replace rookie Domonic Brown in the starting lineup. The 23-year-old outfielder could be headed back to Triple A for more seasoning. Brown was not off-limits in trade talks, but the Astros preferred two other A-list Phillies prospects, pitcher Jarred Cosart, 21, and first baseman Jonathan Singleton, 19. The Astros also got 25-year-old minor-league pitcher Josh Zeid and a player to be determined.

Cosart, a Houston-area native, and Singleton, were widely considered the Phillies best pitching and hitting prospects.

The trade deadline arrives Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Does Amaro have anything else up his sleeve?

I dont know, he said. Our minds are always open. But Im comfortable with our club.

Theres a good chance that the Phillies are indeed done wheeling and dealing. They gave up some elite minor-league trade chips to get Pence and taking on the remainder of his 6.9 million salary will push them even closer to the 178 million luxury-tax threshold. Pence is owed about 2.3 million for the remainder of the season. Houston is kicking in 1 million as part of the deal.

Were still under the tax, Amaro said.

Pence was one of two attractive outfield bats on the market. The other, Carlos Beltran, was traded to San Francisco by the Mets on Wednesday. The Phillies did not aggressively pursue Beltran because he can be a free agent at the end of the season. Pence is under control and arbitration-eligible the next two seasons.

Him being under control for two years was a huge element for us, Amaro said. I dont believe in rental players.

Pence entered Friday night hitting .309 with 26 doubles, three triples, 11 homers and 62 RBIs in 99 games for Houston. He made his second National League all-star team earlier this month. While in Phoenix for the All-Star Game, he asked Roy Halladay about his experiences in Philadelphia.

I told him how much I enjoyed it here and how much fun I had playing here, said Halladay, who won his 13th game in Friday nights 10-3 win over Pittsburgh. I didnt think of it as a sales pitch at the time, but I think I did a pretty good job.

Halladay said he has liked this Phillies team from the beginning. With Pence, were definitely better, yeah.

Brown is hitting .246 with five homers, 19 RBIs and a .335 on-base percentage in 54 games. He has had some rough moments defensively in right field.

I know I have to play better, Brown said after hearing of the Pence trade. I dont need any extra motivation. Live, learn and grow.

Amaro would not say if Brown would be sent to Triple A when Pence arrives. The team will have to make a move to accommodate Pence.

We believe Domonic Brown is going to be an outstanding player, but hes learning on the job, Amaro said. This acquisition is not a knock on Domonic. We believe hell be a Phillie for a long time. For us, this was a move for the present and the future.

In three seasons as Phillies GM, Amaro has shown a bold willingness to make big trades. He acquired Cliff Lee in a July 2009 trade, Halladay in a December 2009 deal, and Roy Oswalt in a July 2010 deal. All three of those moves helped the Phillies win National League East titles.

Amaro may have been under more pressure than ever to get a deal done this month. The Phillies have so much going for them from their record to their stellar pitching staff that they couldnt risk an inconsistent offense bringing them down short of the World Series in October. Pences right-handed bat adds balance to a lefty-heavy lineup. With him hitting fifth, Manuel can use Shane Victorino in the No. 2 hole. Manuel likes the speed tandem of Jimmy Rollins and Victorino at the top of his lineup.

At 35-71, the Astros are the worst team in baseball.

Pence, as they say, is movin on up, and he seems happy about that.

See you tomorrow, Philadelphia, he tweeted late Friday night.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com.

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