Dahl trying to show Phillies he can be a useful bat off the bench

Dahl trying to show Phillies he can be a useful bat off the bench originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

CLEARWATER, Fla. — David Dahl's swing was short and sweet Friday afternoon when he greeted top Astros pitching prospect Spencer Arrighetti with a first-pitch RBI double down the right field line.

It was his first at-bat in five days and he joked a couple of hours later that he felt like he was going to pass out rounding first base. Dahl, like many players in the Phillies' clubhouse, had dealt with an illness during the week that kept him off his feet for several days. Friday was his first game action since Sunday in North Port against the Braves. He started in left field and hit ninth.

Dahl is in camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor-league contract, competing for a final spot on the Phillies' bench. If Johan Rojas makes the Opening Day roster, only one bench spot would be open for a group that includes Cristian Pache, Jake Cave, Dahl, Weston Wilson and a few other longshots. If Rojas does not make the team and instead begins the season at Triple A, there would be two bench spots open, increasing the chances someone like Dahl makes the roster.

The lefty-hitting former Rockies All-Star is 5-for-19 this spring with two homers and a double.

"He's been great," manager Rob Thomson said. "He's actually looked pretty good against left-handed pitching, the couple at-bats he's had. He's another depth piece for us, another option for us."

Dahl turns 30 on April 1. He hit .297/.346/.521 from 2016-19 with Colorado and made the NL All-Star team in 2019, when he hit .302 in a career-best .877 OPS in 413 plate appearances.

A shoulder injury altered the course of his career. He struggled through the abbreviated 2020 season while dealing with it, then was non-tendered by the Rockies that December with pandemic cost-cutting cited as a factor.

"It just took a long time to get right," he said Friday. "I think probably like 2022 is when it finally started feeling better. I've played well at Triple A, it's just about getting the opportunity and taking advantage when you get it."

He has indeed hit at Triple A. Dahl hit .282/.354/.493 at Triple A in the Dodgers' system last summer, but they were loaded and never called him up. He hit .294/.357/.468 in 2022 with the Brewers' Triple A affiliate but didn't play in the majors that year either.

"Especially against right-handed pitching, I feel like I've hit everywhere I've gone," he said. "It's tough finding the opportunity and when you get the opportunity, you've got to take advantage of it. It's part of the game. I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully it lands.

"This is my 12th spring training so I'm used to it, especially these last couple of years trying to battle for a job. I think the biggest thing is trying to have good at-bats and hit balls hard. Whatever the numbers are, the numbers are, but they're watching the quality of the at-bat."

Dahl did major damage against righties from 2016-19 in the majors and has continued to perform against opposite-handed pitching at Triple A. He hit .288 with an .880 OPS vs. righties last season and had similar numbers the year before. It would be a useful skill set on the Phillies' bench. When considering the left-right balance of the rest of the roster, a lefty-hitting bench piece would seem necessary, whether it's Dahl or Cave.

"The amount of really good players here — the more good players, I feel like I can up my game," he said. "Try to just follow these guys and do what they're doing. A lot of really elite players here and they win, and that's what I want, I want to win.

"Winning team, winning culture, I'm just trying to mesh and vibe with the guys as much as possible. It's going well."

Dahl has started four of the six Grapefruit League games he's played with the Phillies. In each of the other two, he came off the bench and homered.

It's crucial this time of year for a player on the bubble to show his manager and front office he has the ability to produce in the role he'd be likely to fill when called upon. Pinch-hitting or coming off the bench cold to hit is a skill not every player possesses. It will take more than doing it a couple of times in camp, but so far, so good.

The Phillies used 20 different position players last season and 26 in 2022, so even if Dahl doesn't make the Opening Day roster but remains in the organization, he figures to help at some point.

"When I don't start and come into the game, I take it very seriously to show I can come off the bench, too," he said. "I think that's a big thing. Every at-bat's important in spring training for me right now."