By my count Ryan Howard, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell, and Adam Eaton head the list of players who are pressing as Opening Day looms on the horizon. Following closely on this group's collective heels are Matt Smith and Antonio Alfonseca.
Howard has struggled to get comfortable at the plate all Spring. His swing and sense of the strike zone are so out of whack they are affecting his demeanor off the field. Howard reportedly has been testy with some of the media lately, a sure sign all the off-season accolades, banquets, advertising photo shoots and other demands have taken their toll on the normally affable big guy. Throw in the poorly handled contract negotiations the Phillies frankly botched and you have the ingredients for a tired and stressed 27-year old before the regular season gets under way.
Rowand's Spring has been so horrible manager Charlie Manuel sent him home to rest for a few days, this after spending the last three months presumably already resting at home. I'd like to hear the spin that makes a virtue out of that decision!
Pat Burrell's health and welfare are being questioned far and wide (outside). Apparently, everything from his feet to his eyes are the subject of speculation. No one need speculate about his batting stroke, however, which he forgot to unpack when he arrived nearly a month ago. In searching the web for information about Burrell's current contract, I stumbled across an item from the happier times when he signed it several seasons back. In the piece he spoke of how warmly Philadelphia fans had embraced him and of his plans to purchase a permanent residence in the area. As far as I can tell, he never followed through on the latter decision. As for the fans' hugs and kisses, well, let's just say their ardor has cooled. My advice to Pat would be to hold off on any real estate decisions for the moment.