CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman stepped to the plate Wednesday, and the Phillies stepped to the right side of the infield.
Philadelphia employed a defensive shift, which has been a rarity for the club in the past. According to Baseball Info Solutions, the Phillies shifted just 45 times last season, ranking 29th in baseball. More and more teams recognize the value of a defensive shift, which is why manager Ryne Sandberg said the Phillies will shift more in 2014.
"We're going to play with it a little bit," Sandberg said after Wednesday's 2-2 tie with the Braves at Bright House Field. "Once we get our charts and everything, [we'll] make a decision. Sometimes it may be dependent on the game."
Sandberg said the Phillies discussed using the shift more during the offseason. The Phillies will use video and spray charts on hitters, which show where they hit the ball against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. They also have charts on their own pitchers, which will tell them where hitters seem to hit the ball when they are on the mound.
"The option will also be provided to the starting pitcher, that type of a situation, according to how they're going to pitch," Sandberg said. "So it will be coordinated. … We'll be smart with it and do what makes sense. It's something that's grown and the information is there. Teams have had some success doing that, so that's something to think about and apply."
Abreu upholding reputation as on-base machine
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Bobby Abreu is doing what he does. He is getting on base.
He went 1-for-2 and was hit by a pitch in Wednesday's 2-2 tie against the Braves at Bright House Field. Abreu, who is competing for a bench job as a reserve outfielder, is just 2-for-12 this spring, but he has walked a team-high five times and has a .444 on-base percentage. Nobody else has walked more than three times.
"I think he has quality at-bats," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He battles the pitchers, makes them work, gets his swings in, and he's taking his walks. He's been a baserunner quite often. He's quality every time up there."
Are quality at-bats good enough, or does Abreu need to show some pop in his bat?
"I'd say quality at-bats," Sandberg said. "I've watched him in BP, so quality at-bats. Obviously, I'd like to see him get pitched to and allow him to get some swings. I also want to see him in right field. He's going to get more games out there, just to help him with his positioning and see how he comes along as he goes through the spring, as far as getting his legs in shape and getting good jumps. We'll see what that continues to look like."
Lidge taking break from academia to assist Phils
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Fifteen minutes into an archaeological dig in central Italy last summer, Brad Lidge uncovered an ancient Roman coin.
"You just never know what you're going to find out there," Lidge said Wednesday morning at Bright House Field. "Honestly, I guess it's kind of like digging in the dirt when you're a kid and try to find buried treasure. That's not really what archaeologists are about, but I get to go from playing a kid's game to not growing up too much by digging in the dirt."
Lidge is studying online at the University of Leicester for his Master's in Roman archaeology, but he returned to his kid's game roots Wednesday, when he put on a Phillies uniform to be a guest instructor for eight days. Lidge famously threw the final pitch in the 2008 World Series, securing the franchise's second world championship. He hopes to impart some of his experiences to some of the team's younger pitchers.
"This is a good chance for me to get down here, talk to some of the younger guys and get in the mix a little bit," he said. "I think when [general manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.] asked me to do this in January, when I came out and talked at the rookie seminar, I kind of jumped at it. I thought it's a chance for me to get back in the mix, talk to the younger guys, see what's going on and try to get back in the culture of things."
Lidge hopes to sit in the bullpen over the next week and discuss baseball with the team's relief pitchers: Talk games plans, routine, preparation.
Comcast SportsNet had interest in Lidge as a broadcaster, but Lidge declined before an offer could be made. He is not sure if that is in his future, although he currently enjoys working with MLB Network Radio.
It helps that Lidge broadcasts from his home.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy that a lot," he said. "I am enjoying radio stuff. I don't know if broadcasting is the right avenue. As I've said before, I was flattered with the opportunity to possibly have a position in that, but i think right now, something like this goes a long ways -- slowly getting back into being involved with the Phillies organization in little ways like this. And at the same time, keeping a radio job. It allows me to stay in touch with baseball in a pretty fun way."
The archaeological digs take a few weeks every summer, but don't expect Lidge to turn into the next Indiana Jones. He enjoys baseball too much.
"I still find myself, even if I'm not doing anything, I'm turning on MLB Network on TV, so I still love watching the game and being a part of the game," he said. "That's probably going to trump anything I ever do."
• Left-hander Cole Hamels is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session Thursday morning, although pitching coach Bob McClure said he needed to check with head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan before he could be certain.
• Cody Asche, who was hit with a pitch on his right hand Sunday, pinch-hit late in Wednesday's 2-2 tie. He is scheduled to play Thursday afternoon in Lakeland, Fla., against the Tigers. He had not played since Sunday because of the bruise hand.
• The Phillies will play a split squad Thursday. They will host the Yankees at Bright House Field, where Kyle Kendrick is set to get the start, and travel to Lakeland to play the Tigers. David Buchanan and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will pitch there.
• Bench coach Larry Bowa will manage the team in Clearwater, while Sandberg heads to Lakeland.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.