By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The names Bart Braun and Steve Henderson do not resonate as huge free-agent signings by the Phillies, but they may be related to one.

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The Phillies recently hired Braun as a special assistant to Ruben Amaro Jr., and Henderson as the team’s new hitting coach. Both moves, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, could be the Phillies positioning themselves to be a more attractive location to free-agent centerfielder B.J. Utpon.

From Rosenthal:

Two rival executives smell a rat in the Phillies’ pursuit of free-agent center fielder B.J. Upton

Well, maybe not a rat, but a pair of embedded ex-Rays officials who know Upton quite well recently assumed prominent positions with the Phils.

Bart Braun, previously a special assignment scout with the Rays, joined the Phillies last month as a special assistant to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

Steve Henderson, the Rays’ hitting coach from 2006 to ’09, will fill the same role for the Phillies after spending the past three years with the club as a minor-league coordinator.

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Amaro denied to Rosenthal that either hire was related to the Phillies’ pursuit of Upton.

The Phillies will likely be in the market for a new centerfielder after trading Shane Victorino in a deadline deal to the Dodgers. Both Upton and Michael Bourn have been mentioned in rumors as potential targets for the Phillies.

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