Number 41 is typically a number that is reserved for pitchers. The Phillies in recent years had the number worn by the likes of Mike Williams, Erik Plantenberg, Jim Poole, Jason Boyd, Brett Myers, Williams again, and then Gavin Floyd. Myers and Floyd switched to 39 and 34, respectively. But since 2005, no one other than World Series winning manager Charlie Manuel has worn number 41.
That is, until now. Non-roster invitee Ernesto Frieri, a non-roster invitee, has been issued number 41 as the Phillies head to camp. Pitchers and catchers report next week.
Manuel never wore number 41 as a player, not in the Major Leagues and not in Japan either, where he starred with the Orix Buffaloes. But, the number he was issued with the Phillies is the one for which he will best be remembered. And that is why the Phillies likely held the number out of circulation since Manuel's firing in August, 2013.
Director of Team Travel and Clubhouse Services Frank Coppenbarger, who is responsible for the allocation of jersey numbers, frequently has held out a number from circulation after a player leaves the team as a sign of respect. He has done the same for players recently such as Pat Burrell, whose number 5 was not assigned after Burrell's 2008 departure until Mike Sweeney helped the Phillies down the stretch in 2010. Phillies fans probably will not see numbers 6, 11, 26, 35, and 51 for a while.
The Phillies' current policy is to only retire numbers for those in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. They could make exceptions in the future. But, for now, the tribute to Phillies greats will be a break from assigning jersey numbers. When we see Frieri take the mound this Spring Training, it will surely look odd.