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April: Phils Move Through Tough Start

KalasToday ends the first month of the 2009 baseball season. The Phillies stand at 11-9, not bad for a month that usually has notorious results. How they did it:

vs. Atlanta: 1-2
at Colorado: 2-1
at Washington: 1-1
vs. San Diego: 1-2
vs. Milwaukee: 1-2
at Florida: 3-0
vs. Washington: 2-1

Here are the top stories of April 2009:

Harry Kalas: 1936-2009
Philadelphia was shocked to learn April 13 that Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas had passed away after falling unconscious in the Nationals press box. Kalas was survived by his wife and three children, and of course, millions of Phillies fans across the world. Remembrances have lived on since, and he was memorialized April 18.

Phillies Honored
Celebration came before tragedy, as the Phillies opened the 2009 major league season, then received their world championship rings as part of the three-game opening series against the Braves. Despite the fanfare, the Phils opened 1-2.

Skepticism surrounded the addition of Raul Ibanez, but the left fielder erased all early doubts with a stellar April. Currently Ibanez leads the National League in home runs (7) is among league leaders in runs batted in, slugging percentage and batting average. Add to that a knack for clutch, speed and fine defense, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Poor Pitching
Last season the Phillies got by on great pitching; this year the Phils can barely by a good outing. Starting pitching has been terrible for the most part, headlined by Joe Blanton and Chan Ho Park’s early struggles. The bullpen has had its moments — Brad Lidge blew his first save; Ryan Madson blew a game; Chad Durbin has struggled in spots. At least Clay Condrey has been untouchable.

Hip This
Chase Utley is healthy. Completely. His statistics (.342, 7 HR, 20 RBI) already put him near the front of MVP discussions.

Cold Cole
Cole Hamels hasn’t had a great season. It started with a shellacking by Colorado. Then he shaped up for a while against San Diego, before being handed his butt. Better was a start against Milwaukee, but Prince Fielder’s liner took him out early. He looked even better against Washington, but a John Lannan bunt made him turn his ankle. Hopefully he’ll be at his best starting in May. And hopefully the injuries will cease.

If any offensive player should wear a dunce cap, it’s Jimmy Rollins. His numbers (.207, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB, 1 CS) are downright bad. He says he’ll hit .400 in May. Can he go three-for-three in bold predictions?

Everything else
Brett Myers is the home run king — at least when it comes to giving them up. … The minor leagues look great — Drabek, Carrasco, Stutes, Knapp and Flande are just a few of the pitchers who are having strong starts. … Shane Victorino is quietly remaining an offensive force. … Ryan Howard’s defense has been superb; can we say Gold Glove favorite? … Carlos Ruiz received a DL stint with ab problems. … Brad Lidge also started to hurt in April.

What’s Next
The Phillies have a tough May ahead. They start at home with the Mets, then travel to Saint Louis and Queens before returning home to play the Braves and Dodgers. A long road trip gives them some rest (Washington, Cincinnati) before opening Interleague play at the new Yankee Stadium. May ends with a homestand against, ironically, the two teams that ended April: the Marlins and Nationals. Early prediction: 17-12.

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