With just under 3 days left until the official start of Spring Training, the Phillies are getting ready to make a push for a third consecutive National League pennant. The position players and the bench players are basically set but the pitching situation has a lot of question marks. As for the starters, will Cole Hamels bounce back after a disappointing 2009? Will JA Happ suffer from the sophomore slump? And who will fill the 5th starters spot?
The rotation currently looks like this: Roy Halladay, Hamels, Joe Blanton and Happ. The 5th spot looks to be a toss-up between Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer. Kendrick’s ups and downs plus his lack of diversity in pitch selection do not bode well. Then again, Moyer is coming off 3 surgeries, lengthy hospital stays and also has his age (47) working against him. Moyer told Comcast Sportsnet this week that his recovery is basically done and he is ready to try pitching again. How that will work out remains to be seen.
Bigger question marks loom in the bullpen. It appears that the Phillies only solid lefty, JC Romero, may not be ready to go until May after his arm surgery late last season. Two other solid pen pieces are gone this year; Scott Eyre retired and Chan Ho Park will not return, although, Park has yet to find a team willing to take him on. Youngsters Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona may fill the lefty void, but at what cost? Both were wild last year during their travels between the majors and minors and will need to really step up this Spring if they are to be counted on this season.
The closer position is also a big question; will we see the perfect Brad Lidge of 2008 or the first to worst Lidge of 2009? The injury and surgery history with Lidge do not breed confidence. However, he should at least be motivated by the thought of redeeming himself after last year. If he fails to do so, former closer and off-season pick-up Danys Baez may be able to fill the role. As for the rest of the pen, Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin will return as two of the few solid pieces left over from the last few years.
Aside from pitching, there does not seem to be much to worry about. Placido Polanco may need time to adjust to the move from 2nd to 3rd base, but he has done that before so the issue should be minimal. He has certainly added a better bat to the line-up.
Jimmy Rollins will need to get off to a fast start to boost his confidence after a forgettable 2009. Rollins has stated he will show up to camp with the pitchers and catchers on the first day to get a head start; This will be a nice contrast to his usual routine of being the last player to report in previous years. As for the Rollins crystal ball, all he would say this year is that Halladay will be a 20+ game winner. Not a huge leap for Psychic Rollins, but we’ll take it.
As for the rest of the gang, if they can stay healthy, this will be a monster line-up for opponents to deal with. But first, let’s see how Spring Training goes :O)
Photos by Jenn