Monday, March 26, 2007

Will The Real Phillies Team Stand Up!?

Most of you out there are probably too young to remember the original reference for my headline, but the meaning is clear nonetheless.

Yesterday, many of the regulars on whom the Phillies are counting heavily stepped up and delivered led by Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels. Of the three, Hamels had previously endured the roughest spring, but in his outing versus the Twins he was solid. The one chink in Hamels' armor since arriving in the big leagues is his tendency to give up home runs, occasionally in bunches. He isn't exactly pitching in the best ballpark in the majors for such proclivities, but his otherwise stellar stuff and great work ethic should more than compensate for the long-ball weakness. Meanwhile, Utley and Rollins have had very positive training camps and seem poised to do their best to get their mates off to a fast start...for a change.

The same cannot be said for Adam Easton, who continues to unimpress. Eaton insists he will be ready when the opening bell is rung, but his performances to date have hardly quieted those who felt his signing was, a) expensive; and, b) a gamble.

Jon Lieber, whose current address should be officially listed as Limbo, FL, has already walked the path between the bullpen and starting pitchers' mound more in everyone's imagination (including his!) than in reality as news spread last week that starter Freddy Garcia might miss some time with biceps tendinitis soon to be followed by reports of Lieber's own soreness and possible disablement. The latest reports now suggest Garcia may be ready to take his regular turn (number three spot) the first week of the season while Lieber might be out for an indeterminate amount of time. Lieber's trade value cannot exactly be very high under the circumstances while his value to the Phils' starting rotation remains in doubt as well.

The bullpen, especially from the left side, remains an utter mess. Neither Fabio Castro nor Matt Smith has acquitted himself well to say the least. Smith was my mid-Winter candidate for potential darkhorse of the staff. Now, he is in serious jeopardy of falling into greater darkness, namely obscurity, at AAA Ottawa. Castro has done absolutely nothing to improve his stock either.

Pat Burrell has also had such a miserable spring manager Charlie Manuel is already sitting him before the real action begins! Is it possible the Phils could release Burrell down the road? I don't know how much of his remaining contract is guaranteed, but, frankly, I'd rather see someone like Michael Bourn given a chance to play than suffer through Burrell's protracted death rattle. Aaron Rowand hasn't done much with the bat either. The upshot of all this is that Pat Gillick has few if any real bargaining chips to dangle in the hopes of finding help.

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