"Sure," Nix said. "But I've only played there a few times."
"You told me you could play first," Manuel said.
"I tricked you," Nix joked.
Manuel chuckled as he recalled the conversation following a 4-4 tie with the Detroit Tigers. Manuel and Nix met for the first time in December in Dallas, where baseball held its Winter Meetings. Nix had agreed to terms on a two-year, $2.5 million contract with the Phillies, and with Nix living nearby it figured to be a good opportunity for the new guy to meet the manager, have a nice dinner and talk a little baseball.
"I can play first base," Manuel recalled Lix mentioning during the dinner.
He can, but he hasn't played there a lot. In fact, he has played there just nine times [six starts] in his professional career, all of those games coming last season with the Nationals. But Nix might have an opportunity to play there a little more this season with Ryan Howard possibly out until midseason following a setback with his left Achilles tendon surgery.
John Mayberry Jr., Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome figure to be ahead of Nix on the depth chart at first -- Nix is more likely to see time in left field -- but Manuel started Nix at first Sunday, with plans to start him again Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Fla.
"I think I probably tried to make Charlie feel comfortable, like, 'Hey, I did OK. I think I can do it,'" Nix said, thinking back to that original conversation.
Nix had not played first base since Midland High School in Midland, Texas.
"After not playing for about 12 years, it isn't the most comfortable thing, but I've been taking grounders," Nix said. "I want to feel comfortable doing it. I just don't have a lot of experience over there. I'm still getting my bearings. But I've enjoyed giving it a shot."
If everybody is healthy, which rarely seems to be the case, it makes sense if Nix platoons in left field with Mayberry. Nix, who hits left-handed, has a career .747 OPS against right-handed pitchers, compared to a .506 OPS against left-handers. Mayberry, who hits right-handed, has a career .762 OPS against left-handers, compared to a .604 OPS against right-handers.
Had they platooned to their strengths for the same club last season, the pair would have combined to hit 24 home runs with 64 RBIs in 408 at-bats.
Nix is looking forward to his first season with the Phillies. He heard plenty of good stories about the club and Manuel from former Nationals teammate Jayson Werth, who played for the Phillies from 2007-10. He heard plenty of good things from Manuel, too.
"We had a real nice dinner," Nix said. "Charlie told me about what it's like here, and I told him about myself and the path of my career. It was just a really fun time. We laughed about a lot of different things. He's a great guy. I see why guys want to play and win for him. I was really happy I got to have dinner with him."
In fact, Nix afterward told Werth he had the opportunity to have dinner with Manuel.
"He was outraged," Nix joked. "Like, 'What? I never got to do that.' But I think he's happy knowing what I'm going to experience here. I'm just making sure I'm ready for everything. What's good for the Phillies is I've had experience doing a little bit of everything. I've played every day. I can platoon. I've been a bench player."
That versatility is why the Phillies wanted him, even if he's only played a few games at first base.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less