Baseball is finally back! After an 8-0 win in an exhibition game against Florida State on Thursday, the Phillies took on the Yankees today in the first official spring training game. Cole Hamels started in the 5-4 victory and went 2 innings allowing an unearned run.
Notably absent from the game were short stop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley. Rollins was said to be a healthy scratch after missing a few days of camp for a Motown event at the White House. The absences were excused.
The Motown Tribute was held for President Obama in celebration of Black History Month lead by musicians Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. And while that sounds like lots of fun, it also does not appear that Rollins was required to be there for any reason.
J-Roll is in the music business and has his own label, but his job right now is baseball. Leaving his team for two days to schmooze with famous musicians seems irresponsible. Outside interests should be left for the off-season. Of course, that is just my humble opinion.
As for Utley, rumors have been flying about his physical condition. Mentions of “soreness” in his knees and legs are raising eyebrows. Utley missed both the exhibition game and the first official game this week after “intense workouts” during the first week of camp. He may not play tomorrow either.
Utley has been developing a pattern of injuries over the past several years which are becoming alarming. Rumors of a hip injury followed him throughout the second half of 2008. After winning the World Series, he did finally undergo surgery.
His health was questioned after that for much of the 2009 season, although he did not miss signifigant time. In 2010, Utley sprained his thumb and was put on the DL in June. The injury was more serious than initially disclosed and Utley had to undergo surgery on the thumb. He missed 47 games that year.
Not only have the injuries become a pattern, but so has disguising them. A war of words ensued in 2008 when then GM Pat Gillick slipped and told a reporter that Utley was experiencing hip problems. Utley vehemently denied the statement, yet in the offseason, it became apparent that Gillick was telling the truth as Utley had hip surgery.
The thumb injury was underplayed as well in 2010. Now, when rumors of Utley’s health arise, most are inclined to think there is truth to the rumor. Then when Utley drops coy comments to reporters like, “If there’s cause for concern you’ll be the first to know,” it leads people to wonder if they should be worried.
Utley is not a big guy. His weight has been generously listed as 190 pounds on his MLB bio page. His smaller than average baseball player frame has led to questions about his endurance for years. When the previous injuries and previous denials about injuries are all mixed in, it is a recipe for trouble.
The current issue may just be a simple matter of Utley being over-zealous and working himself too hard in camp. But until he gets into a regular spring routine, the questions will linger.
In Other News
– It appears that the Phillies have lost out on relief pitcher Chad Durbin. Offered a minor league deal, Durbin decided instead to sign with the Cleveland Indians on a one-year contract. Durbin is a great guy and he will be missed. I wish him all the best!
– Another relief pitcher, Danys Baez, was a huge disappointment last year. But after signing a two-year deal, the Phillies are stuck with him and hope he can rebound. However, in a B-game today, Baez allowed five hits, five runs and one walk in just two-thirds of an inning. Not good. Even sadder, the $2.75 million he will be paid this year could have been put to better use, like signing Durbin.
The Phillies next spring action is tomorrow and they will again face the Yankees, this time at home in Clearwater. Game time is 1:00pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography