As of May 13, 2011, the Phillies are 25-13 and two games ahead of the Florida Marlins for first place in the NL East. However, Phillies players are dropping like flies. Can they maintain this pace in spite of all the injuries?
So far the Phillies have lost their starting short stop, both catchers, two starting pitchers, a bunch of relief pitchers and more. Starter Joe Blanton came off the DL but looks like he needs to go back as he is still in pain and losing speed on his pitches. Starter Roy Oswalt is coming back this week, but also looks like he is not 100% after a rehab start on Thursday.
Then in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Braves, centerfielder Shane Victorino left the game early with a hamstring pull. It ended his 15-game hitting streak.
The Phillies anemic offense managed only three hits in the game, a trend which has continued throughout the season so far. The pitching has helped the Phillies win games, but the loses due to a lack of hitting are starting to pile up.
At the same time, the pitcher’s are now coming up lame. If the injuries continue and the Phillies wind up with both weak pitching and weak hitting at the same time, this spells trouble.
Here is a look at the injuries so far this year:
If Victorino winds up on the DL, the Phillies may have been able to fill the roster spot by calling Domonic Brown back up since he has recovered from hand surgery. However, earlier in the week, Brown sprained the thumb on the same hand he had surgery on and is unavailable to play right now.
Currently in right field, Ben Francisco has been terrible in the month of May. He is hitting just .071 since May 1. Ryan Howard is hitting .217 in May. Placido Polanco’s May numbers are down as well, hitting .234. Brian Schneider’s bat was starting to heat up when he got hurt and was sent to the DL. Carlos Ruiz is back, but rusty, and he is still looking for his first hit this month.
The bench players have filled in admirably where they are able to. But if this trend continues where the offense slumps and the pitching can no longer bail them out, the Phillies could lose their grasp on first place quickly.
The Phillies season is at a crossroads now. Either they will be able to continue to battle through the injuries or they will not.
But this is an issue they have dealt with for many years running now. This Phillies team knows how to carry on when star players hit the skids. Hopefully, knowing that they have overcome injuries in the past will be enough to propel them into the future as a winning team.
A man of little words, Chase Utley has always preferred to do his talking with a bat. But this season, the bat will remain silent as Utley attempts to recover from a potentially long-term injury.
Utley’s chronic knee pain has been found to be the result of patellar tendinitis, bone inflammation and chondromalacia. And that does not just sound scary, it is scary.
Hesitant to speak about the issue, Utley has dodged reporters all through spring training. Luckily, he did not need to depend on the knee to do the dodging.
But when he did finally speak, very little was made any clearer. Utley referred to making “some progress” but still has no time table for a return. And when asked which doctors he had seen, Utley’s response was, “ If I tell you I have to kill you.”
While that dry sense of humor is charming, it brings him no closer to a solution. Surgery seems to risky and may actually do more harm than good. Odds are that Utley will return at some point and likely struggle through the season in some pain.
And so Utley remains a bit mysterious. Incidentally, the word “mysterious” is defined as “Difficult or impossible to understand, explain, or identify; Having an atmosphere of strangeness or secrecy.” Yup, that about sums it up.
As for the rest of the team, they are on their way back to Philly to play two exhibition games Tuesday and Wednesday before Opening Day on Friday. Questions still linger about the Phillies. Will Luis Castillo make the team? Who will be in the bullpen? And will Jenn absolutely freak out when the full reality of Utley’s absence hits her on Friday? Stay tuned…
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography
With pain in his right shoulder, closer Brad Lidge will start the 2011 season on the disabled list. With Lidge’s long history of injuries, this new issue should be a huge red light to the Phillies that Lidge’s time is close to being over.
Lidge was especially concerned with this new injury saying, “I haven’t had shoulder problems in the past.” Although, Lidge has had surgery on both knees multiple times, elbow surgery, an oblique strain, a strained intercostal muscle and bicep tendinitis, just to name a few.
Still, Lidge entered spring training boasting that he was healthy and felt great. Exactly when that may have changed is hard to tell. Lidge is an eternal optimist so what he says should maybe be taken with a grain of salt.
Here is a little help for those who cannot always decipher what Lidge is talking about.
The Brad Lidge Translator
Lidge Says: I feel great.
Lidge Means: The pain is unbearable!
Lidge Says: I am not concerned.
Lidge Means: I am totally freaking out here!
Lidge Says: No need to panic.
Lidge Means: Red alert, red alert…PANIC!!!
Lidge Says: It is a setback.
Lidge Means: This is the END of my career!
Lidge Says: This is disappointing.
Lidge Means: I am going to crawl into a hole with a vat of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and eat and cry until I vomit.
With Lidge out of the picture, closing duties will fall either to Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras. While it is good to know the Phillies have options, this does create major issues in the bullpen. The Phillies failed to re-sign Chad Durbin, which may come back to haunt them as they now have to rely on less experienced arms in the middle innings.
The Lidge injury is magnified when you think about the loss of Chase Utley, Domonic Brown and questions still lingering about Placido Polanco’s elbow.
So, should Phillies fans be worried? The short answer is, not yet.
The team seems to have back-up for Utley. Luis Castillo finally got a hit today and also walked twice while showing solid defense in the field. Wilson Valdez continues to impress as well.
As for Brown, Ben Francisco is doing well in what may have been Brown’s spot in the outfield. John Mayberry Jr. is also capable and the two may wind up rotating in right field.
Another good sign is that Polanco did play today in the 3-1 victory over the Braves. Polly looked a bit tentative and was sore after the game, but he expects to play again on Sunday. Or perhaps, much like Lidge, I am being a tad too optimistic about all this? I hope not.
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography
Hearts stopped all over Phillies nation today as pitcher Roy Oswalt fell to the ground after appearing to get hit in the head with a line drive. Always cool under pressure, Oswalt adjusted his cap as he lay on the ground awaiting assistance.
Oswalt walked off the field as if nothing happened but was taken to the hospital as a precaution. Both X-Rays and CAT-Scans were negative.
As it turns out, the ball just barely missed a potentially dangerous area and hit just below the right ear, leaving him with a neck contusion. Had Manny Ramirez hit the ball any harder though, it may have been a lot worse.
The good news is that Oswalt’s head is apparently made of bricks.
The really good news is that he should be fine and is expected to make his next scheduled start. Whew!
So while Oswalt had a near miss in the 4-1 loss to the Rays, Luis Castillo had a total miss. In his first appearance as a Phillie, Castillo went 0-4 at the plate while grounding out twice, lining out and hitting a soft pop-up. He also left four men on base.
One can only assume that the strikeout for Castillo will come in tomorrow’s game as he finishes up demonstrating all the different ways to make an out.
Just to recap, Castillo was given a second chance by the Phillies after being tossed out like the trash by the Mets. He then proceeds to show up two days late to camp with lame excuses. When finally put into a game, Castillo showed the Phillies nothing. Basically, he sucked.
There are only seven games to go for Castillo to show he is better than Wilson Valdez, who should get the job in place of Chase Utley as he has earned it. But alas, the charade will go on as games continue.
Then again, at the rate injuries have come this spring for the Phillies, maybe they should just sit all the roster players and let the minor leaguers play the final spring games.
The regulars should be instructed to cover themselves in bubble wrap and avoid all sharp objects or anything moving at rate faster than 0.5 MPH.
Pretty much, contact should be limited only to turtles who have had their claws clipped and jaws muzzled.
Although, that sounds a bit cruel to the turtles so, let’s make it goldfish. Yeah, goldfish are pretty harmless, right? Wait…both turtles and goldfish can carry Salmonella, which can infect humans! Damn it! No one is safe!
And that is your animal science lesson for the day. Now, back to the bubble wrap…
Those who were hoping for an Opening Day miracle in the form of a healthy Chase Utley are going to be sorely disappointed. The signing of veteran second baseman, Luis Castillo, to a minor league deal means that Utley may be down for a long time.
This move seems like the Phillies are taking out the Mets trash in the hope of turning it into treasure. But Castillo was just released from the Mets for poor performance and a poor attitude. The move cost the Mets $6 million to eat Castillo’s contract. With that in mind, they must have wanted him gone very badly.
Once upon a time, Castillo was a very good player. But this 35-year old is coming off a season where he hit only .235 with 17 RBI and played just 86 games due to injuries.
And guess what body part gives Castillo the most issues? His legs, more specifically knees, ankles and feet, have been trouble for Castillo for many years now. So the Phillies are trying to replace a second baseman with a bad knee with another second baseman with a bad knee?
There are at least four guys already in camp with the Phillies who can replace Utley temporarily. This includes Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez, Josh Barfield and Pete Orr. All have hit well, especially Valdez who is batting .419 in 43 at-bats.
But the Castillo contract is low-risk as the Phillies have to pay him less only $414,000 if he makes the 25-man roster. However, can they accurately assess Castillo’s play with only nine games to go?
This move stinks of desperation from a team that has maxed out its payroll. And it also does not bode well for the present or future of Utley.
Clearly, the knee issue is much worse than anticipated. And the fact that surgery has not been done yet is an even bigger red flag. If the Phillies are so worried that surgery could make matters worse, then Utley’s future, even beyond 2011, is a huge question mark too.
Hang on, Phillies fans. This is going to be a very long and very strange trip through the 2011 season.
Photo by Eric Kilby, Wikimedia Commons
The list right now has 12 pitchers, although the Phillies could add David Herndon and go with 13. Kyle Kendrick has not had a good spring, but the Phils are paying him too much to send him back to AAA. It could happen, as Herndon has been pretty good, but it is unlikely.
What is more probable is that the Phillies will choose to carry an extra infielder or utility player because of the Chase Utley situation. Odds are very good that Utley will start the season on the disabled list with Wilson Valdez filling in at second base. However, this still leaves an extra roster spot open.
The list above includes Michael Martinez, who has played well enough to earn a spot and he plays multiple positions. Plus, Martinez is a Rule 5 player. If the Phillies do not put him on the roster, they have to offer him back to the Nationals. With the way Martinez has played, the Nationals would probably take him back.
That leaves one bench spot for either Pete Orr, Josh Barfield or Delwyn Young. Barfield has been very good at the plate, hitting .355 with three doubles and a triple. He is also speedy, which is a plus.
But Barfield’s main weakness appears to be defense. While he has not committed any “official” errors, Barfield has fumbled the ball more than once. In Saturday’s match-up with the Orioles, Barfield dropped an easy double play ball, did not get any outs and left Cole Hamels hanging. Hamels was having a rough day to begin with, so this did not help.
As for Orr, he is experienced and can play second, third and a little outfield. Orr is batting .343 with three doubles and three triples this spring. Orr also strikes out less than Barfield and Young, but his fielding is average.
That leaves Young, who is intriguing because he can play almost anywhere. However, his fielding is not very good. A lifetime .258 hitter, Young is batting .298 with one home run, seven RBI and two doubles this spring. He is probably the least likely to make the team.
However, there are still nine games left in Florida and two exhibition games in Philadelphia before the season begins. Each player still has time to make a big push towards earning a roster spot.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
In yesterday’s spring training game against the Astros, pitcher Cole Hamels had words with second baseman Bill Hall. Hamels threw a pitch up and in which did not even come that close to Hall, but he apparently took offense.
Hamels blew off the incident saying Hall was a “good guy.” Hall reacted a bit differently. According to the veteran infielder, “He’s (Hamels) definitely a marked man for me now. So when I do some damage off him I’m going to let him know I did some damage off him. I guarantee that. I’m not going to let him disrespect me. If you disrespect me I’m going to do my best to disrespect you back.”
In nine years in the majors, Hall is a lifetime .250 hitter. I am not sure what “damage” Hall is referring to and I am guessing we will not find out anytime in this decade. For a 31-year old, below-average player, these are certainly very immature remarks. Hall is not worthy to lick Cole’s muddy cleats.
The grocery list of Phillies player injuries has just grown a bit longer. It began with Chase Utley’s bum knee, moved on to a broken hand bone for Domonic Brown, a sore neck for Ben Francisco and now, Brad Lidge has joined the party.
According to Phillies sources, Lidge has bicep tendinitis. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said, “He generally has it in the spring,” indicating that this is business as usual for Lidge. The Phillies insist it is not serious. Then again, we have heard that one before.
There are also reports that Lidge’s fastball is not up to speed. Combined with his injury history and the fact that he has yet to get through an entire spring training with the Phillies healthy, there may be reason for concern.
Speaking of Lidge’s history, did you know that Lidge missed parts of his first four professional seasons, from 2002 to 2005, with a variety of injuries? These included a torn rotator cuff, right shoulder tendinitis and a broken forearm that almost ended his career.
Here is a closer look at some of Lidge’s injury history:
– 2002, a strained intercostal muscle near the rib cage.
– December 2003, arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
– June – July 2005, shut down with elbow issues.
– May 2007, bone bruise on his right femur near his knee.
– June – July 2007, left oblique strain.
– October 2007, surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.
– February 2008, tore the meniscus in the same knee he just had surgery on during his first pitch off a mound in spring training.
– June 2009, sprained right knee and a sore elbow, specifically the flexor pronator tendon.
– January 2010, surgery on both the elbow and the right knee again.
– March 2010, the elbow is still an issue and Lidge gets a cortisone injection.
– March 2011, bicep tendinitis.
While history does not always predict the future, the long list of injuries is a bit scary. The amount of time Lidge has missed is an issue as well.
Of the top ten closers in baseball who remained basically healthy in 2010, the average number of innings pitched for each closer was about 68.2 innings per year. Lidge pitched only 45.2 last year and 58.2 in 2009.
The current injury for Lidge may indeed be nothing to worry about. Phillies fans certainly hope that is the case. But at the rate Phillies players are dropping, any injury is scary.
Adding to the Phillies woes, Placido Polanco left a spring game early today after hyperextending the same elbow he had surgery on this offseason. Just like Lidge, the Phillies say he is not expected to miss much time.
For both Lidge and Polanco, many are hoping that history will not repeat itself.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography