Pirates add Phelps to bench
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Pirates hope that adding Josh Phelps will give them the power-hitting threat off the bench they have lacked all season.
Phelps, a first baseman and catcher, was claimed off waivers Friday and will be in uniform in time for today's game against the Los Angeles Angels.
"He's a big, rangy guy who has power," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "The presence of him on the bench is something we haven't had. He's a home run threat."
Phelps, 29, was designated for assignment Tuesday by the New York Yankees. Phelps hit .263 (21 for 80) with two doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI in 36 games this season.
In 2003, Phelps hit a career-high 20 homers while playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2002, he batted .309 and finished sixth in balloting for American League rookie of the year.
"He has major league experience, and he's had some success," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said. "He'll give us a little more flexibility because it will allow us to use (Ryan) Doumit more freely."
Since he was the only backup to catcher Ronny Paulino, the Pirates have been careful when using Doumit as a pinch-hitter. Doumit has not been used as a designated hitter this season in interleague play.
Phelps' arrival also could be a boon for Nate McLouth, who often has been asked to pinch-hit in late-inning situations normally reserved for a slugger.
"If you are put in that situation, a lot of times you try to do too much because it's not really your game," McLouth said. "It's nice to have a guy like (Phelps). You've got to be able to put that fear in the other team, that on any pitch the guy can go deep."
With Phelps on the bench, McLouth will likely get more pinch-hit at-bats earlier in the game.
Phelps, a right-handed hitter, also will be used to give Adam LaRoche a break against tough lefty pitchers.
"We've been riding Adam LaRoche pretty good, virtually every day," Tracy said. "I'm not saying we're platooning Adam LaRoche, so don't misinterpret that. An opportunity to spell Adam LaRoche periodically and have a pretty interesting right-handed bat with power on the bench was something we were intrigued with."
Phelps fills the empty spot on the 40-man roster which was created Thursday when reliever Dan Kolb was designated for assignment.
When Phelps arrives, the Pirates will have to make a roster move. They reached the 25-man limit Thursday night when first baseman Brad Eldred was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis.
Eldred was in the Pirates' lineup yesterday as the DH, but he likely will be sent back to Indianapolis when Phelps arrives.
"I have no idea what will happen next," Eldred said before last night's game. "I just want to go out there and play. I can't think about anything else. That's not my job."
By the numbers
Josh Phelps has played for Toronto, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees. Here's a look at his career statistics.
388 Games1283 AB181 Runs344 Hits69 2B4 3B59 HR224 RBI2 SB.268 BA.336 OBP.466 SLG