Pierre understands situation following Phils' moves
Veteran's playing time will diminish as club looks at other outfielders
WASHINGTON -- It was hours before the first pitch. The temperature was over 90 degrees. Juan Pierre was not in the starting lineup and wouldn't play unless the right situation presented itself.
And still, there he was Thursday afternoon, in the outfield at Nationals Park, getting his work in, preparing. Just in case.
That won't surprise anyone who knows Pierre's work ethic. Even though he'll turn 35 later this month, he approaches each game with a rookie's enthusiasm. Still, he finds himself in a curious position. He's batting .312. He played in 86 of the Phillies' first 104 games, 68 of them starts. In short, he's done everything he's been asked to do.
But when Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were traded before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, everything changed. Domonic Brown was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Nate Schierholtz was part of the Pence deal. John Mayberry Jr. took over for Victorino in center. The Phillies committed themselves to taking a long look at all three to see if they fit into next year's plans.
And where does that leave Pierre?
"Just sitting and waiting. Probably watching a little bit more than I have this year," he said with an agreeable smile. "I'm not oblivious to the game. I knew [what would happen] once the trade went down. That's just where it is, and rightfully so."
Charlie Manuel called Pierre into his office after the Deadline, feeling he owed the veteran an explanation. It wasn't necessary.
"I talked to him about it. And he told me, he said, 'Charlie, I understand. But I'll be ready when I'm called upon,'" the manager related. "He knows where he's at. It is kind of hard sometimes. I know what he can do. But at the same time, too, we've got some guys we want to see, and he understands that."
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. also empathizes with the situation Pierre is in.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "I can't say enough about what he's done for us. He's the consummate professional. He's someone, frankly, who I think can be a great mentor to guys like Domonic Brown and others."
As he spoke, just a few feet away in the dugout, Pierre and Brown were engrossed in conversation.
"He's been really special," Amaro continued. "He's been, in a lot of ways, one of those unsung heroes for us this year. But he's not a complainer. He'll do whatever the manager asks him to do without ever complaining. And there's great value in that. Right now, we've got to see what we've got in some of the players we've acquired. And unfortunately, perhaps, it will be at the expense of [Pierre] losing some playing time."
Said Pierre: "I'll be ready. Whenever [Manuel] calls on me or needs me, I'll be ready to go. Other than that, I'll try to help out as much as I can. None of them are similar type players to me, but just the everyday baseball aspect. If I can help out, I'll help them out."
It's not a given, of course, that Pierre will finish this season with the Phillies. Trades can still be made with waivers. And there has reportedly some interest in him.
"I have no idea," Pierre said. "I'm grateful to have a big league uniform on, whether it's here, there or wherever. So you'll never hear me saying I want to be traded or whatever. Philly is the only team that took a shot on me [in the offseason], gave me a chance to begin with. So I'm grateful. I don't think anybody in the organization thought I would have [this many] at bats, so I've played a lot more than everybody expected.
"I just take it in stride. I really honestly don't know what will happen. I know I've played decent this year, but it's a matter of if other teams see value in that. My game is not valued as much these days, so it all depends what a team wants and needs. But I'm fine and OK with finishing up here."
Pierre's remarkable equanimity speaks not only to his experience, but the fact that he's had his eyes open along the way.
"It would probably be hard to accept, but I've been through it before," he pointed out.
With the Dodgers in 2007, Pierre played in every game, batted .293, stole 64 bases and led the league in sacrifice bunts. The following year, he found himself on the bench as Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier earned increased playing time, Andruw Jones was signed as a free agent, and Manny Ramirez showed up just before the Trade Deadline.
"And that was in the prime of my career," Pierre pointed out. "I still feel like I can play and do all those types of things. But sometimes you've just got to be patient and wait. A lot of people don't like to do that, but I think I've been conditioned for that with my past experience, so I'm fine with it."
And there's this: In 2000, the Rockies called a young outfielder up from the Minors in early August. In the week before they did, they traded two veteran outfielders, Tom Goodwin and Brian Hunter, to accommodate the move.
The kid's name, of course, was Juan Pierre.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.