The start of spring training is always an exciting time. It means a new year, new players and another shot at the World Championship. For me, the day pitcher’s and catcher’s report does not exactly conjure the urge to cheer out loud; it is more a feeling of relief. It is time to exhale…
Because all winter long, I have been holding my breath waiting for spring to arrive and it is finally here! Winter is the worst season for baseball addicts. You can try to distract yourself with the holidays, football, hockey and hoops, but it is just not the same. And there are so many down days and so much time to fill.
Now, like a child on Christmas morning, we all feel the anticipation of the new season upon us. Just as excited must be Roy Halladay, who arrived to spring training in style. This appears to be a 1932 Ford Roadster; the photo was tweeted by Matt Gelb:
As spring training rolls forward, here are a few things to keep your eyes out for:
Who’s on First? – After Achilles surgery, Ryan Howard will be out of the line-up until at least May, probably longer. Will John Mayberry take over? Or, will he start in left and leave 1st base to new Phillies Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton? My preference is the latter.
What’s on Second? – The “who” here is Chase Utley. The “what” is what shape will he be in after nursing a bum knee throughout the 2011 season.
Juggling of the Bullpen – There are some significant changes to the pen this year starting with new closer Jonathan Papelbon. But that role is set, so what about the rest of the pen? What role will Kyle Kendrick fill? Will Dontrelle Willis be a real contributor? And can Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes move past the awful ending to an otherwise solid 2011 season? Add Chad Qualls and a possible return from Jose Contreras and this has the makings of a huge soap opera.
The Infirmary – One of the biggest question marks on an aging team is can they stay healthy? Many players had off-season surgery including Cole Hamels, Placido Polanco, Hunter Pence and, of course, Ryan Howard. Jimmy Rollins has only played around 1/2 of the last two seasons due to injuries. And this year, he has a brand new contract, making his continued health a real priority.
The Contract Situation – Cole Hamels is on board for the year. But unless the Phillies ink a long-term deal with him this spring, they are likely to lose him in free agency next year. The question is, how much of a distraction will this be? Personally, I think the Phillies need to cut a deal now and be done with it.
Luckily, this year fans will have more opportunities to see these dramas play out thanks to expanded TV coverage of spring training. Comcast has published a list of all 14 games that will be aired plus many news and social media events. This is the first time EVER that you can see every Phillies spring training game without travelling to Clearwater.
Of course, I would rather be in Florida. However, this is a great alternative. With the early March games being aired, you can see a lot of young guys and prospects play that without the TV coverage, you normally would not. In prior years, those players were already sent back to the minors by the time games began to air.
Changing the subject to a more personal note, many of you who follow my blog regularly know that I generally post new content frequently. However, this off-season has been a tough one for me. It seems like life keeps tossing me curve balls. I have been quite ill all off-season. Then a short time ago, my cat of 15 years passed away in my arms. I had to have surgery just 6 days after that happened and am still recovering with another surgery on the horizon.
I will live, but it has been a rough go for a while here. So I thank you all for continuing to follow my silly little blog :O) I hope to be back on track with regular postings and some fun photos real soon. And what could be a better cure for that which ails me than baseball?
Thank goodness, Spring Training has sprung!
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