With under three weeks left before Opening Day there is lots to be done. The Phillies are looking for their fifth consecutive National East title and it won’t come easy. Division rivals Atlanta Braves have stepped their game up this offseason going after big names like Dan Uggla and have a core of talented young players in Jason Heyward and Freedie Freeman ready to lead.
So like I said, it won’t be easy. This is what Spring Training is for. The Phillies invited a lot of guys to camp and feel very confident where this team is heading, even though the reality of Chase Utley starting the season on the DL is starting to sink in.
The Phillies made their first round of cuts this week sending seven guys to Minor League camp and reassigning eight. The Phillies sent right-handers Justin De Fratus, Drew Naylor and J.C. Ramirez; and infielders Harold Garcia, Cesar Hernandez, Carlos Rivero and Matt Rizzotti to Minor League Camp. This means that guys like Michael Stutes, (3IP, 0R, 1K today v. Twins) are getting additional looks for the coaching staff with hopes of making the Opening Day roster.
For the week, the Phils went 6-2 in the Grapefruit League. Roy Halladay threw six scoreless inning against the CC Sabathia and the Yankees while sporting a nice black eye he got practicing bunting in the batting cage. Wilson Valdez, John Mayberry and Delwyn Young continue to impress as all three are seeing a lot of playing time this spring.
Valdez and Young lead the team with 14 hits each. Even more impressive is Valdez has only 27 at bats and is batting .519. Just for fun he decided to hit a home run too. Mayberry launched his third and fourth home runs of the spring this week and is hitting .324 in the Grapefruit League. Not to be outdone by the youngster, Ryan Howard also hit home runs number three and four this week and is slugging at a .700 clip.
Not to raise a red flag but Cliff Lee is still working out the kinks this spring. In his third Grapefruit League outing, Lee allowed five hits and three runs in three innings pitched against Orioles. No one seems worried about Lee at this point. After the game Manuel seemed minimally concerned. He said, “he was all right. The wind was blowing. It definitely looked like he was having some command (problems).”
Your Chase Utley update: Nothing. There isn’t much to report on Utley’s knee. The cortisone injection provided little, if any, relief in his right knee which is now being diagnosed with patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation. The team officials say he is progressing with some of his exercises but is out indefinitely until the knee properly heals.
So like I said before; it seems probable that Utley will start the season on the DL. You have to think Valdez will step in as the every day starter until he is completely healthy. This could open up a bench spot. Look for a guy like Young to snag that spot, if he hasn’t already. He is hitting .333 so far with six RBIs. He does lead the team with 10 strikeouts which can be misleading considering he also has seen the most at bats (42).
At the end of the week, the Phillies look strong at 11-7 in the Grapefruit League. As more cuts occur, we will start see the 2011 Phillies shape up. The meat of the team is obvious, with some new faces guaranteed to emerge.