2012 Spring Training

Writer’s Roundtable, Part 2: Press On

Vance Worley will look to repeat his rookie season. (AP)

The grass is getting greener, the birds are retreating back to the Northeast, and my allergies are flaring up; these are, of course, the telltale signs of baseball’s return. The comments on both the blog and our Facebook page have been heating up with both optimism for the 2012 season but also some legitimate concerns for the Fightins. The Phillies Nation crew got together and put together the top reasons to panic as well as the top reasons to have faith in the Phils, or press on. Feel free to take a look at ours and add in reasons of your own! Today, we press on!

The Reasons to Press On

The Three AmigosNick Staskin, Retired Beerman

No matter what starting eight Charlie trots on the field, the trio of aces is going to keep the Phillies in games for 3/5 of the season. While some teams may have one or two shutdown stoppers, the Phillies still sport the best top three in all of baseball.

Much like last year when injuries plagued the team to start the season, I fully expect the big game pitchers to eat up innings and keep the Phils in games.

Opportunity is knocking. Loudly. – Jay Floyd, Minor League Specialist

In 2012, I’m looking forward to- INJURIES.  Yep, more of them.  Not because I wish it upon the team or any of its players, but because they always happen and they are what it will take for the likes of talented arms like Michael Schwimer, Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus to get a shot with the big club.

The Phillies are likely to open the season with about 12 pitchers on the roster, but it’s inevitable that they’ll use an additional 8 to 10 hurlers at the big league level this year, as is regularly the case. Guys like Schwimer, Aumonth and De Fratus all have very little left to prove in the minors.  And while Aumont struggled a bit with his control during Grapefruit League play this year and De Fratus has been out of action with an elbow ailment, once those two guys and 2011 Triple-A All-Star Schwimer get comfortable in their likely opening day hometown of Allentown with the IronPigs, it won’t be long until they are ready to contribute in Philadelphia.  All it will take is some openings, which always come.

The Vanimal takes a bite out of the NL EastJonathan Nisula

Vance Worley had a great 2011 season, pitching well enough to be in the running for Rookie of the Year. There were some concerns, however, that Worley would not be able to replicate his performance as hitters grow used to his delivery and pitching style. So far this Spring, he’s proved that theory wrong as he’s pitched to a 2.81 ERA in sixteen innings.

He looks ready to step into the same role as last year, which will work wonders for a Phillies team that could struggle offensively. All of a sudden, the Phils have three #1’s and maybe even a #2 or #3, instead of settling for three #1’s and a #4. Over the course of the season, he could make a huge difference in the Phillies record and therefore the division race as well.

HP3 and the Improved Bench – Don M.

Thank the Baseball Gods that we traded for Hunter Pence last season. Without Utley and Howard in the lineup until school lets out, and because we don’t know if Mayberry’s power will project as well as we hope over a full season, I am so very thankful that Ruben Amaro acquired Hunter Pence last year.  Slotted anywhere in the 3-4-5 positions in the batting order, Pence has become the player that opposing pitchers must think twice about.

The other positive? The bench upgrade.  If used correctly, in platoon situations, we could see very productive seasons from Wigginton, Nix, Thome, Pierre/Pods, etc.  If the roster is a puzzle, sometimes its the little pieces that make all the difference, and these new additions are going to get their chances right from the start.

The Phillies still have the best pitching. Kieran Carobine

The Phillies are blessed with a brilliant staff again this year.  Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are shoe-ins for Top 5 in the Cy Young voting year after year.  Cole Hamels is slowly making his name known and should see his name atop the list in no time.  Hamels gets the nod for the home opener, while Vance Worley gets tabbed to take game three of the season.  This shows Charlie’s confidence in the kid.  Worley has something to prove.  Something that JA Happ and Kyle Kendrick couldn’t do; that the sophomore slump is whack.  Rounding out the rotation is a ‘new and improved’ Joe Blanton.  Blanton is in a win/win situation if you ask me.  He is being asked to replace Roy Oswalt, which seems daunting.  It really isn’t.  Oswalt went 9-10 with an ERA under four.  If Blanton finishes the season .500 and an ERA around 4.30 I will be happy.

Left FieldIan Riccaboni

My area of panic is also my reason to press on. I cannot recall a time in recent history when the Phillies had this amount of capable Major League talent competing for what may amount to the fifth outfield spot but what could turn into the starting left fielder position. Pierre and Podsednik are not the players they used to be and Montanez will not become the player he never was but there is reason to be excited that Pierre and Pods can contribute on the bases and get on base at a good clip to generate some more offense.

Because there is no choicePat Gallen

You press on, it’s what you do as a team and as individuals. Ruben Amaro built this team the best way possible in his mind, so it’s what we’ll have to go with it. As fans, it’s time to rally around a group of unknowns. The hope is that Utley and Howard can be ready to contribute by mid-season for another run. The pitching is solid and can carry the team at times. There are plenty of talented offensive piece that can hold down the fort. You have one of the best ninth-inning options in your bullpen. It might not be 2008 all over again, but it’s still a hell of a team that many cities would be desperate to have.

An exciting regular seasonCorey Seidman

The regular season will be much more exciting in 2012 than it was in 2011.

The Phillies are now a team with an excellent pitching staff and a patchwork offense. The 3-4-5-6 of two years ago is physically gone. There will be more 1-run games, more extra inning games, more low-scoring games.
I realize that won’t pique everyone’s interest, but I love it. I love being emotionally invested all summer and being unable to sit still during September. Last season, the Phillies jumped out so quickly that the division was wrapped up by the All-Star break. The Phillies took 2 of 3 from the Braves heading into the break and while Atlanta was still mathematically well in the hunt, you got the feeling it was over when the Phillies pounded Derek Lowe and the Braves, 14-1, on the final day of the first half.

In an improved division, that won’t happen. I expect the season to be much like 2010, when the Phillies were ravaged by injuries and played good-but-not-great baseball until late-August, when they swept the Padres in San Diego and surged all the way through September.

I like excitement. I was the kid who stopped playing baseball video games if my team was 30-1. That just wasn’t as much fun.

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