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Charlie Manuel once thought Ender Inciarte was a club employee, not a player

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

Ender Inciarte's tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies isn't one that Phillies fans are quick to talk about. The club selected him in the 2012 Rule-5 Draft from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Inciarte then made the team out of Spring Training, but was designated for assignment after suiting up for just one game with the team and ultimately returned to Arizona. 

Inciarte was recently interviewed by Dan Lumpkin of MLB Trade Rumors, and shared an interesting anecdote about an interaction with then-Phillies manager Charlie Manuel during his brief time with the club: 

“You know, I could say I was very under-the-radar in Arizona,” the 2016 Gold Glove winner said. “Not underrated but very under-the radar.”

“When I got there on the first day, I got there at like 5:00am, and Charlie Manuel didn’t even know who I was,” Inciarte recalled. “He asked me to go get something like his shoes or his hat and I told him, ‘I’m not a clubbie, I’m the Rule 5 kid.”

Given that Manuel was otherwise heralded for his ability to connect with players and that the Phillies have put the 2012-2015 stalled rebuild era behind them, this story is actually quite funny. Had Inciarte told it a little earlier, it may not have been as funny because letting Inciarte go back to Arizona was one of the worst transactions that the team has made this decade. 

The Phillies designated Inciarte to clear room for Ezequiel Carrera. Carrera ultimately played in just 13 games for the Phillies, posting an average of .077. Inciarte returned to the Diamondbacks and posted a 2.7 WAR in his first season in the league in 2014, before slashing .303/.338/.408 in his second season. Inciarte was ultimately traded to the Atlanta Braves after the 2015 season in one of the more lopsided deals in recent memory, as he joined top prospect Dansby Swanson in a package that allowed the Diamondbacks to acquire Shelby Miller. 

While the Phillies later used the Rule-5 Draft to find Odubel Herrera, who is probably a better version of Inciarte, the blunder of letting Inciarte -- who is still just 26 -- leave still resonates. Even if he didn't end up being a long-term piece for the Phillies, the club could have traded him for some value. 

For his part, Inciarte told Nick Piecoro of Arizona Central Sports in 2015 that he was thankful for his brief tenure with the Phillies: 

"I'm grateful to them," he said. "I got an opportunity to play with the big guys they had on their team and they changed my career. They made the other 29 teams look at me. I'm grateful to them."

Unfortunately for the Phillies, the mistake of letting Inciarte leave won't be easy to forget soon, as he signed a five-year/$30.5 million extension this offseason to remain with the Braves. 

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