Welcome to another gripping episode of Phillies Anatomy. When last we left our intrepid Phightins, there were Phour Aces, a stacked lineup and a potential run at a fifth straight NL East title all in sight. Speculation that the Phillies were the prohibitive favorite in the NL inspired fans looking to avenge the 2010 NLCS. Dreams of a Boston-Philly World Series or perhaps a rematch of 2009’s World Series loss loomed large – now with Halladay AND Lee in the fold. Well, none of that is off the table, but with a week to go before the start of the long 162 game season, there are a few clues regarding the legend of venerable Saint Patrick but the effectiveness of Old Man Murphy (“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy’s_law).
First it was Chase Utley, who was going to miss “some time” in Spring Training while resting a “nagging problem with knee patellar tendinitis.” That was an early St. Patrick’s Day gift for the team, exacerbated by the fact that Utley didn’t play a lick of Grapefruit League action. He’s a veteran and Spring Training games don’t matter… except that they do help get one ready for the season. Later, it was announced (begrudgingly) that Utley’s tendinitis was less nagging and more pronounced chodromalacia – which would be treated with cortisone, more rest and more pondering about surgical options. Chase Utley will open the season on the DL. The only question is whether it will be 15 or 60 Day DL – and of course it will likely be 15 day DL first and then 60-Day DL. Luis Castillo (Mets refugee), Delwyn Young, Pete Orr and Rule 5 acquisition Michael Martinez are all vying for this roster spot. Wilson Valdez is the likely starter to replace Utley. Stay tuned for the dramatic outcome as this gripping storyline could last all season…
Blue-chip-prospect-turned-one-game-wonder-turned-late-season-bench-warmer Domonic Brown was sent to play Winter Ball – and then was sent home after a week. All Spring, Brown was enduring coaches tinkering with his swing, a bout with hitlessness and rampant criticism claiming that the 23-year-old was supposed to set the world on fire. It’s not Brown’s fault that he is the only prominent high level prospect remaining after deals for Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and then essentially letting Jayson Werth walk so the team could once again sign Cliff Lee. Brown got his first hit of the Spring and then promptly left the game with a broken hand. He will be out rehabbing until probably Memorial Day. In the short term, this should help the cause of John Mayberry, Jr. and of Ben Francisco – who has been tearing up the Grapefruit League. Then again, someone has to be valedictorian of Remedial School. Look for the team to seek help outside the organization as the season unfolds.
Just recently, Roy Oswalt was hit in the neck with a line drive off the bat of Tampa’s Manny Ramirez. Oswalt was checked out medically and seems to be fine. He is scheduled to make his final Spring start and will be prepared to open the season as part of the rotation.
Another key Phillie is headed to the disabled list. Closer Brad Lidge will start the season on the DL because of shoulder pain and be replaced by either Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras, according to several reliable inside sources (including CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury). Lidge, who has been suffering from bicep tendinitis, hasn’t had his usual velocity this spring – clocked in the 85 MPH range. This could bode well for Scott Mathieson who will likely take Lidge’s place on the Major League roster as the team heads north. Mathieson has been working with guest instructor Bruce Sutter and pitching coach Rich Dubee to perfect his split fingered fastball in camp. Look for Charlie Manuel to experiment with Madsen, Contreras and Mathieson in the final week of Spring Training.
One more week until the season begins and still a couople of roster spots to fill. If Valdez replaces Utley in the starting lineup, who makes the team? Utilityman Michael Martinez? Journeyman Pete Orr? Surprising Delwyn Young? Are we really talking about Josh Barfield and Luis Castillo? What about the bullpen? Can Antonio Bastardo and JC Romero prove effective? Is Scott Mathieson the answer? No one is talking about Placido Polanco or Raul Ibanez but will they last for a full season? How about Carlos Ruiz or Jimmy Rollins? With Utley out, will Rollins hit third or defer to Polanco? Victorino, Rollins, Polanco, Howard, Francisco, Ibanez, Ruiz, Valdez might be your Opening Day lineup with a rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt. Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton. Bullpen looks like Lidge (DL), Madsen, Romero, Contreras, Bastardo, Danys Baez and Kendrick – inserting Mathieson until Lidge returns. One more week until Citizens Bank Park and it counts for real when they yell “PLAY BALL!”
Make sure you also see :
AL Preview http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/mlb-2011-preview-al-east/
NL Preview http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/mlb-2011-national-league-preview/
Pitching Preview : http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/aces-wild-in-philadelphia/
Cy Young Predictions: http://prosportsblogging.com/mlb-baseball/2011-cy-young-predictions/
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org