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Clearwater Here We Come: Top 5 Stories Heading into Spring Training
- Updated: February 16, 2012
5. Who Will Start in Left Field?
The Phillies parted ways with Raul Ibanez and NLDS Game 3 hero Ben Francisco in the off-season, which leaves four possible outfielders to fill the void in left field: Dominic Brown, Juan Pierre, John Mayberry Jr, and Laynce Nix.
With Juan Pierre aging and Dom Brown more than likely starting in AAA, the left field competition will most likely come down to Mayberry and Nix.
Both guys bat well against opposite-handed pitching, so the Phillies may play it safe and work a platoon out in left and give each guy substantial time.
4. Remember Joe Blanton?
Blanton had a less then stellar season last year to say the least, pitching only 41.1 innings during the regular season and pitching out of the bullpen for all of the playoffs.
Big Joe struggled last year when he pitched in the later innings, and his fastball and change-up were finding their way to the upper part of the strike zone, allowing opposing players to tee off on the ball.
With the hefty contract Blanton has, the Phils will look to keep him as their fourth starter in the rotation if his elbow holds up.
Blanton should be solid if he can build up his endurance and keep his pitches down in the later innings
3. Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, or Roy Halladay Can’t Pitch Every Night
The Phillies still have some decisions to make going into spring training, like who will be the fifth starter in a rotation that boasts three studs at the top.
Kyle Kendrick, who was both in the bullpen and the rotation last season, seems to be the front-runner, and with good reason. Kendrick posted a 3.22 ERA last year and seemed to mature as a starting pitcher and long reliever.
The Phillies also have some options if Kendrick is not the way they want to go.
They did sign Dontrelle Willis and Joel Pineiro this offseason, although both are more suited to come out of the bullpen. Willis seems to be more of the left handed specialist than a starter due to his past struggle with stamina and injuries. Pinero could make a strong case for the fifth starter spot if he keeps his ERA low during spring training and stays consistent.
2. “The Contract”
The Phillies signed Cole Hamels to a one-year, $15 million contract to avoid arbitration this off-season.
The Phillies will look for Hamels to take a bit of a home-town discount considering the chances of winning and the amount of success he has achieved here in Philadelphia.
However, rumor has it that “Cliff Lee type money” is what Hamels might be asking for due to the fact that he is a World Series and NLCS MVP and helped deliver this city its first ring in almost 30 years.
It looks like the Phillies and Hamels should be able to work something out during spring training or at least into the season.
1.Ryan Howard’s Achilles Injury
I still remember watching him ground out to Matt Pinto of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 9th inning of game 5 and being so confused about why he didn’t run it out.
Of course I turned the TV off in disgust, only to get a call from my buddy telling me to turn it back and see what was going on. The Cardinals were hopping around Chris Carpenter while Howard, not even halfway up the first base line, was on the ground with multiple trainers around him in what looked to be extreme pain.
Howard is expected back around late May or early June, but it’s hard not to wonder if the Phillies cleanup hitter will be the same player when he finally does return. While having your best hitter out of the lineup is never a good thing, the worst thing the Phillies can do is rush him back into the lineup.
This team will make the playoffs and probably win the division, but they can’t rush him back too soon or they might see themselves exit the playoffs just as fast in 2012 as they did in 2011.
I’m Tyler Brosious, or Brosh. I’m a 16 year-old junior at Lenape High School, and my real passion lies in Philly sports. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @brosh75 for Breaking Phillies news and everything Philly sports. Enjoy guys.