It's shaping up to be a drama-less spring for the
After winning back-to-back National League pennants and
retaining the core of their roster, few jobs will be up for grabs when the
Phillies begin working out at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. Every
position in the starting lineup and each spot on the bench already has been
If not for injuries, the Phillies wouldn't have any
decisions at all.
Throughout the spring, questions will linger about the
opening-day readiness of closer Brad Lidge, lefty reliever J.C. Romero and
left-hander Jamie Moyer, each of whom underwent surgery (more than one surgery,
in some cases) during the offseason. If they're not going to be available by the
start of the season, it will open opportunities for several in-house candidates,
including relievers Antonio Bastardo and Scott Mathieson and fifth-starter
option Kyle Kendrick.
"If we knew that J.C. and Brad and Jamie were going
to be 100 percent, that would be my druthers right out of the chute,"
general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "So, obviously, I wish our health was
a little bit better."
Otherwise, everything figures to run smoothly in
New ace pitcher Roy Halladay and new third baseman
Placido Polanco were the biggest offseason additions. But the Phillies also
overhauled their bench and made changes to the bullpen, two areas that were
weaknesses down the stretch and in the playoffs last season.
Gone are pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, utility infielder
Eric Bruntlett and backup catcher Paul Bako, replaced by Ross Gload, Juan Castro
and Brian Schneider, respectively. Veteran right-handers Danys Baez and Jose Contreras were added to the bullpen, filling the voids left by Chan Ho Park and
And if Lidge, Romero and Moyer are healthy, the Phillies
will have only one job opening - the final spot in the bullpen. Bastardo, a
left-hander who had a strong season in the Dominican winter league, is a leading
candidate to claim the job with a good spring. But he'll have competition from
fellow lefties Sergio Escalona and Mike Zagurski and right-handers Mathieson and
David Herndon, who was selected by the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft.
"We looked to try to improve in a couple different
areas," Amaro said. "I think we added some depth in our bench, a
quality top-of-the-rotation starter (Halladay). Overall, I think our club, if I
look at it on paper, I think our club is as good as it was last year. And,
hopefully, it'll play better."
WHERE: Bright House Field, Clearwater, Fla. The
Phillies have trained in Clearwater since 1948, although this is just their
seventh year at Bright House Field. The ballpark's must-see feature: a
thatched-roof Tiki bar beyond the left field fence.
TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: RHP Kyle Kendrick
spent most of last season in the minors after winning 21 games in 2007-08, but
the Phillies saw improvement in his secondary pitches after he was recalled last
September. Now, Kendrick has a chance to return to the rotation by winning the
fifth starting job.
TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: LHP Jamie Moyer had
three surgeries in four months during the offseason, and although he's hopeful
of being ready to make his first regular-season start, the Phillies are taking a
more conservative approach. At age 47, Moyer is the oldest player in the majors.
How will he bounce back after the injuries? After all, he underwent three
surgeries in the past 4 1/2 months, an offseason medical drama from which
pitchers half his age may be slow to recover. But Moyer, 47, believes he can be
ready to make his first regular-season start.
"I'm kind of in a gray area because I've never been
in this type of situation before, but I feel comfortable with where I am right
now," Moyer told the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal. "My biggest goal
is to stay away from any major setbacks. If I do have a setback, then we'll deal
with it. But I have to use my eyes and ears and let my body tell me what to
In October, Moyer had surgery to repair two torn tendons
in his groin. He twice was hospitalized for blood infections related to the
surgery, and in November, he underwent a minor procedure to remove an abscess in
his groin. Last month, he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Moyer has
resumed throwing off flat ground and said he expects to throw from a mound early
in spring training.
AUTHORITY FIGURES: Charlie Manuel has emerged as
one of the most successful managers in Phillies history. Only Manuel (2007-09)
and Danny Ozark (1976-78) have led the franchise to three consecutive division
crowns. Manuel, 66, has a 447-363 record in five seasons for the fifth-best
winning percentage (.552) in Phillies history. Manuel's coaching staff,
including pitching coach Rich Dubee and hitting coach Milt Thompson, remains
intact from 2009.
NEWS, NOTES and QUOTES
-- LHP J.C. Romero appeared in 51 of the final 82
regular-season games after joining the Phillies in 2007. In 2008, he matched his
career-high with 81 appearances, fifth most in the NL. So, Romero was missed
last season when a 50-game suspension and a midseason elbow injury limited him
to 21 games and forced him to undergo surgery on a flexor tendon in October. But
at least the Phillies still were able to lean on Scott Eyre to face the NL's top
left-handed hitters in the late innings. Eyre retired this winter, leaving
Romero as the Phillies' lone veteran lefty reliever. Romero resumed throwing January
17, according to GM Ruben Amaro Jr., but he'll be closely monitored in spring
training. If they can't rely on Romero, the Phillies may be shopping for another
-- Jimmy Rollins will be the Phillies' leadoff hitter on
opening day in Washington, but Rollins must exhibit more consistency this season
from the top spot in the lineup. Last year, Rollins' .296 on-base percentage was
the worst of his career and the lowest in the majors among leadoff hitters with
at least 350 at-bats. He also saw the fewest pitches (2,580) of any leadoff man.
Of course, Rollins also brings unique power to the leadoff spot. Last season, he
had the third-most homers and second-most RBI among leadoff men. And over the
past six seasons in the NL, only Albert Pujols has scored more runs (704) than
-- J.A. Happ went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA and finished
second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season. But many statistical
analysts who study advanced pitching metrics remain unconvinced that Happ is
more than a back-of-the-rotation starter on a contending team. To wit: Bill
James, the noted statistical analyst who coined the term "sabermetrics,"
has projected that Happ will go 10-11 with a 4.31 ERA in 188 innings. But
although that would represent a drop-off from his rookie-year success, it would
remain an acceptable performance for a number four starter in a good rotation.
Ironically, James' projection for Happ is remarkably similar to what Cole Hamels
gave the Phillies last season (10-11, 4.32 in 193 2/3 innings).
HE SAID WHAT? "Because my age is in
front of my name, and because that's all some people talk about - 'He's not
supposed to be doing this' - that kind of fuels the fire. Not to be
disrespectful to people, but I want to show you that I can." - Jamie
Moyer, the oldest player in the majors (47), on whether he can come back from a