Manuel mum on Phils DH choices in Games 1 and 2

Updated: October 21, 2008, 6:36 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It's time for the Philadelphia Phillies to name a designated hitter for the first two games of the World Series, and manager Charlie Manuel is bound and determined to be non-committal.

But from all indications, the Phillies appear to be leaning toward catcher Chris Coste and outfielder Matt Stairs as their DH choices for Games 1 and 2 at Tampa Bay.

Manuel, given multiple opportunities during a Tuesday press conference at Tropicana Field, declined to reveal which hitters will get the nod at DH against Tampa Bay left-hander Scott Kazmir in the series opener Wednesday or righty James Shields in Game 2 on Thursday.

Manuel wouldn't even reveal whether a) he's yet to make a decision, or b) he has names in mind, but prefers to keep his choices a secret.

"It doesn't matter," Manuel said. "I might look and change [my lineup] right at the last moment. You never know. Seriously."

The Phillies will employ a DH in the four games at the Trop, and Manuel has several options at his disposal.

With Kazmir on the mound, the Phillies can use Coste, outfielder So Taguchi or utilityman Eric Bruntlett at DH. Or they could shift Pat Burrell to designated hitter and play Bruntlett or Taguchi in left field.

Some factors for Manuel to consider:

• Burrell doesn't like the designated hitter role, and his numbers reflect his lack of comfort with it. Burrell has a career .153 batting average at DH, with 27 strikeouts in 85 at-bats. So the signs point toward him staying in left.

• Coste hit .107 (3 for 28) in September, and there's a risk to having one of Philly's two catchers serve as designated hitter. If starter Carlos Ruiz were to suffer an injury, Coste would have to shift behind the plate, and the Phillies would lose their DH.

• Taguchi batted .220 this season, but hit .326 (15-for-46) in the 12 games that he started in the outfield. He's also one of the few Phillies to have faced Kazmir, with one hit in three career at-bats against the Rays' lefty. But when Taguchi took batting practice Tuesday at the Trop, it was with Lou Marson, Greg Golson and other young players who aren't even on the World Series roster.

Manuel has some more appealing options at his disposal for Game 2, with left-handed hitters Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins and Stairs as potential candidates. As of Tuesday afternoon, none of the players in question had been told anything.

"That's the way Charlie likes to do it," Coste said. "He likes to kind of keep things under wraps and not divulge information too soon."

If the lack of a decision has left any of the principals antsy, they're not showing it.

"It's all going to work out," Jenkins said. "Anything you're asking me right now, you can bet they've had 25 meetings on it already. This is not something they're still pondering. I'm sure [Manuel] knows what he's going to do already."

The only apparent certainty: Manuel is very hesitant to use a left-handed bat against Kazmir, who has held lefties to a miniscule .514 OPS this season.

By starting Stairs at DH in Game 2, Manuel would leave himself the option of playing Dobbs instead of Pedro Feliz at third base. But while Stairs has a wealth of experience at designated hitter, he's a career 3 for 20 (.150) against Shields.

As the Phillies contemplate their lineup options for the first two games of the series, they are also working to kick off the rust from six days off and get acquainted with Tropicana Field's quirkier features.

Factoring in the catwalks, the roof and the FieldTurf, the ballpark is a considerable adjustment for the Philadelphia players. That's why shortstop Jimmy Rollins said the Phillies should benefit from coming in Monday and getting two days of workouts in Tampa.

The Phillies haven't played a game on any type of artificial surface since July 2006 in Toronto.

Rollins said the infield was "bouncy" Monday, but should play differently once the Tampa Bay grounds crew waters it. He's less interested in the speed of the turf than the way the ball reacts coming off the dirt surrounding it.

"Yesterday I was just kicking back and letting the field do what it does," Rollins said. "Today I'm going to attack groundballs just like it was a game. That's the good thing about having two days here."

Stairs, who has spent the bulk of his career in the American League, is more familiar with Tropicana Field than any of his Philadelphia teammates. Nevertheless, he has no special insights to pass along in anticipation of Game 1.

"I never said, 'A and B is catwalks are a homer,' and C and D is 'just keep your eye on it,'" Stairs said. "I think it's just a typical ballpark, with the crowd noise and a little faster infield. That's about it."

ESPN.com senior writer Jayson Stark contributed to this report. Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer