Friday, February 18, 2005

Be Optimistic

Every time I resolve to be optimistic about the Phillies’ playoff chances they pull me back in.

Granted, I am a major league worrier by nature and thus prone to looking for trouble, but the Phils always oblige by presenting me with ample opportunities to act in character.

Even before he was officially scheduled to arrive in camp, there was Pat Burrell, already weary of unconfirmed and, according to him, completely unfounded reports that his wrist was still sore. Moreover, Pat made it clear he is sick and tired of all of the advice he’s been offered the last few seasons on how to cure his now chronic hitting woes, pointing out that new batting coach Milt Thompson will be his fifth such instructor since reaching the majors.

Walk softly, Milt.

Pitching remains the name of the game and on that front the key starter may be Randy Wolf. Randy would like to put last season behind him. Who can blame him? The line on Wolf has always been that he possesses four or five major league pitches and mixes them up well, keeping batters off balance. In addition, Wolf has one of the best pick-off moves in the league and fields his position extremely well. I like Randy and want him to succeed, but his assortment of junk and off-speed pitches don’t impress me that much since he doesn’t really possess all that great a fastball to offset them. It seems to me batters lay off the 70 mph lobs and sit on that fastball. More troubling, he is prone to giving up fly balls in a ballpark that is, well, you know where I’m going with this one. What concerns me the most, however, is Randy’s health. He has made a few trips to the DL over the last two or three seasons and has been shut down at other times. His left arm just might not be built to take the strain. On the other hand, did we mention this guy can hit? Three home runs and eight RBI’s last season in a mere 45 at-bats. Randy may be a candidate for retrofitting.

What would the Spring be without a little controversy? Having dumped Larry Bowa, I would have guessed that whatever controversy there was to be had in Clearwater would not emanate from the manager’s office, but lo and behold, on the first official day Charlie Manuel opined that he would expect Placido Polanco not only to get his ab’s this season, but who knows, he could even start come April. Ed Wade, no stranger to the misstep himself, quickly countered the next day that he never even expected Polanco to re-sign with the Phils in the first place and that as far as he was concerned, Chase Utley was penned in to start at second.

Dare I say I am optimistic Utley will indeed be given every chance to prove he can handle the job?

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