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July 19. 2011 10:38PM

Kevin Gray's On Baseball: The curious case of Matt Rizzotti


Matt Rizzotti is not viewed as a long-term option for the Phillies, who have Ryan Howard ensconced at first base for some time. 

MANCHESTER - Reading first baseman Matt Rizzotti, a two-time Eastern League All-Star, gets paid by the Phillies and wears his organization's trademark pinstripes.

He's really playing for 29 other teams. It's a curious case.

Ryan Howard's monster contract extension ($125 million) will likely keep Howard in Philadelphia through 2017, blocking Rizzotti from ever getting a shot at first base. And with no designated hitter in the National League, Rizzotti ideally needs to be traded for a better opportunity to reach the majors. If not, he'll continue working through 2012 toward minor-league free agency.

The 6-foot-5 lefty masher, who participated in the Eastern League Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Manchester last week, entered Tuesday night against the Fisher Cats batting .295 with 18 homers and 58 RBI.

Memo to other organizations as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadine approaches: Rizzotti is raking against lefties, batting .322 with nine homers.

"You never know. (A trade) is in the back of my mind. I think it would be in the back of anyone's mind with the future being a question mark," said the 25-year-old Rizzotti, who won't be a free agent until after next season. "I hope I make it here. It would be great. It's hat I know . but there are 29 other teams out there."

The Phillies don't shy away from trades. A year ago, they landed Roy Halladay in the deal that sent Kyle Drabek and Travis d'Arnaud to the Toronto organization. The Jays also received Michael Taylor in the Doc Deal, and Taylor was traded to the A's for Brett Wallace.

This time of year, minor leaguers never know what to expect when checking their cell phone messages.

"It can be a tough game, but you have to block it out and play for today and try to help your team win," d'Arnaud, a .330-hitting catcher, said.

When asked about Rizzotti's situation, d'Arnaud said, "Definitely something will happen for him. When you've got 18 home runs, you've a lot of value."

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COLLISION COURSE: The 265-pound Rizzotti was thrown at home plate on Monday night after attempting to beat a relay throw from Fisher Cats second baseman Jonathan Diaz, who fired home to d'Arnaud. Rizzotti attempted a slide instead of barreling over the catcher.

"I was thinking, 'I could truck him right here, but he'd probably die.' That wouldn't have been a good idea," Rizzotti said.

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MILESTONE WATCH: Fisher Cats center fielder Anthony Gose needs one more stolen base to match the single-season team record (46), set by Darin Mastroianni in 2010. First baseman Mike McDade needs one more double to match the team single-season team record (35), set by David Smith in 2007.

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GAME DAY: Right-hander Henderson Alvarez (5-4, 3.18 ERA), who touched 100-mph on Binghamton's radar gun last week, pitches tonight against Reading. The Phillies send to the mound righty Tyler Cloyd (3-2, 3.42 ERA), looking for his fourth straight quality start. Game time is 7:05 p.m. The Portland Sea Dogs arrive for a four-game set beginning Thursday.

Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is kgray@unionleader.com.


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