Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Players Under the Most Pressure in Spring Training
It is now officially February, the month baseball begins to come back. Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in less than three weeks and Philadelphia again will be a buzzing baseball town with the 5-time NL East Champions getting set for their 2012 season.
As they do, they have decisions to make regarding roster spots, lineups and pitching staffs. The players also have to get into game shape or improve for the following season.
These things, and a number of others, place pressure on the players to get themselves ready for the season.
The following are the ten Phillies who will be under the most pressure during Spring Training.
Although Ruben Amaro stated that he would like to see Brown spend a full year in AAA and start the year there for his development, Brown knows the team will be watching him closely this Spring. How could they not? This is their former top prospect, a guy they avoided trading for years and a guy they still believe has a future on this team. He still wants to keep himself relevant and a nice Spring Training will keep his name in the conversation of team executives and fans.
John Mayberry Jr.
Mayberry only has a starting job in left field (although it could be a split with Laynce Nix) because of Brown's struggles last season. To Mayberry's credit, he had a tremendous second half and has the momentum from that carrying into the spring. Really, Mayberry had four good months at the major league level. He will have many eyes on himself though to see if he can keep it up consistently for a long period of time and not just a few months.
The "Big Piece" will have pressure on him to perhaps come back from his injury sooner than he should. He will see all his teammates on the field in Clearwater, a place to which he usually arrives early, and he may be eager to get out next to that first base bag. There may also be some pressure stemming from his contract beginning this season, as well as Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder all having new deals that begin and Howard being paid the highest average annually.
Speaking of contracts, Papelbon may be feeling some of that heat too and may face some questions regarding his true value. He also is on a new team after being a stud closer in the American League. He may be putting some pressure on himself to prove "This is why they brought me here." Either way, he'll be feeling some pressure to get off to a good start to 2012.
Utley is the first person on this list to not be in any type of new situation. He could be feeling pressure because he is expected to be healthier and ready to go with a new training routine for his knee. He did not play one Spring game last year and that was the start of a poor season. At least getting on Bright House Network Field will allow some people to relax and perhaps be the first sign that the old Utley is back.
Stutes struggled at the end of last season, probably being worn down. He was awful in recording the only out he could in the post season. But he'll look around the bullpen and see the others taking PFP, realizing that he has some competition. There are a number of people around him that could be the Mike Stutes of 2012. Stutes will have the leg-up, but it won't be hard for him to find a full kick of pressure.
Galvis is at a point where he could make the major league roster, or he could tank and throw his career path off a few years. He knows the organization seriously considered him for the starting shortstop opening that temporarily existed. There will be a lot of fans watching the youngster closely playing "What if" and second guessing Ruben Amaro, as many so often do.
"Big Joe" almost fell of the map of relevancy the past ten months. He went from being a part of one of the greatest pitching rotations of all times, to not even being thought of once the season ended. When he was in games, there was a general feeling of, "Oh that's right, Blanton is still around." Blanton has missed time due to injury three times the past two seasons and will be watched closely this Spring.
The man whose legs used to put so much pressure on the Phills now has to fight for a roster spot to get on the club. He'll be lined up against Scott Podesednik and compared in every aspect of the game to determine who will be the fifth outfielder. Juan Pierre actually may be expected to make the team, and that itself adds pressure on him.
As if Roy Halladay doesn't work enough and put enough pressure on, he may be feeling the proverbial window closing. Halladay will be 35 this season, and he could symbolize the entire team's aging nature and the opportunity for players like himself, Cliff Lee and Placido Polanco who don't have rings getting less and less of a chance to do so.