11 Philadelphia Phillies Debuting New 'Looks' This Spring
While nothing may seem more peaceful than stretching and having a catch in the Florida sun, many of the inhabitants of the baseball world find their roles and bodies in flux during spring training.
Every year there are a handful of players on each team who we hear are in "the best shape of their lives," and a couple guys who really let themselves go. Some players experiment with new facial hair, new gloves, new workout routines and new pitches in order to find something to help make this season their breakout season.
Regardless of whether they are fighting for jobs, adjusting to new roles, switching positions or dealing with contract uncertainty, every player has their own story, their own prerogative and their own "look" every spring.
And even though the Phillies' core group of players has remained largely intact from last season, plenty of the 2012 Phillies are still debuting and adjusting to new looks this spring.
Brought back in the offseason for a second stint with the Phillies, Thome actually has been preparing to play some first base in 2012 given that Ryan Howard will be missing some time.
The last couple seasons, Thome has primarily been a DH; however, Charlie Manuel recently said that he expects Jim to play around 20 games at first this year.
We may also have to start calling the dude "SlimJim," as Thome reportedly weighs less this year than he did back in his rookie season. A new diet combined with a new workout (which included a ton of Pilates, according to the article above), has Thome looking trim and ready to go this spring.
Photo Credit: The Morning Call
At this point, everyone knows how Ryan Howard's 2011 season ended. Not only did the Phils suffer a painful loss to the Cardinals, but their lineup suffered a painful loss when Howard tore his Achilles tendon in his final at-bat.
Believe it or not, Howard is usually a pretty durable guy. Since his rookie season, he has played in at least 143 games every year and actually managed to play in all 162 in 2008. This is going to be a very different year for Ryan Howard, as he's not going to be playing in serious games anytime soon. He will really just be focusing on rehab during spring training.
Though the hope is that Howard could come back sometime in late May or early June; the most important thing is that he comes back 100 percent whenever that may be.
Don't expect the Phillies to rush Howard back before he is totally ready, and don't expect to see Howard doing much besides cheerleading from the dugout this spring.
What you see above is Dom Brown looking absolutely jacked diesel with Hunter Pence (we'll get to him next). Clearly they have stepped up their workout routine in the offseason, as Dom's right pec is roughly the same size as that woman's head.
Baseball uniforms have a way of hiding what a player's body looks like somewhat, but make no mistake—these two are built like Spartans.
Domonic Brown is also fighting for a shot at making the roster this spring. He hopes to impress a Phillies front office that doesn't seem to be as high on him as they once were. Physically, he looks pretty ready to me, but we'll have to see if he can put those guns to work during spring training.
Photo Credit: The 700 Level
Besides drinking lots of muscle milk with Domonic Brown, Hunter Pence is also adjusting to a new role this spring: becoming the Phils’ main offensive piece.
With Ryan Howard out for a while and Chase Utley’s questionable knees sapping a lot of his old power, Pence will be expected to be the main offensive threat on the Phillies for a big part of 2012.
Pence could take over Utley’s familiar No. 3 spot in the batting order for good, and he will be counted on to produce this season for an offense that is devoid of a lot of the power we have become accustomed to seeing from the Phillies.
Fresh off having his contract extended a year before the Philies had to do so, Kyle Kendrick has to be feeling like the organization is behind him, which should give him a look of confidence this spring.
Kendrick, who was a key piece of the Phillies rotation his rookie year, has had his ups and downs since then—not only statistically, but literally he's been up and down between the minors and the majors, the bullpen and rotation. For Kendrick, it has often seemed like a lot of the problems were mental.
Hopefully, the Phillies' trust in Kendrick, which they showed by standing behind him this offseason, will give him an added sense of confidence in 2012.
Someone who wasn’t on a lot of Phillies fans’ radars last spring, Vance Worley comes into 2012 with a virtually guaranteed spot in a star-studded rotation—and he’ll certainly be getting different looks than he got last spring.
Looking to avoid the sophomore slump, Worley is working on developing some new pitches and picking up tricks of the trade from some of the Phillies aces this Spring. He has already started using Cole Hamels' grip on his cutter and is changing the grip on his changeup at Roy Halladay's recommendation.
Clearly, the "Vanimal" is not content with simply resting on the laurels of his successful rookie season—a necessary mindset to have, since hitters in the majors make adjustments awfully quick.
After signing with the Phillies in the offseason for roughly one million dollars, Dontrelle Willis will be debuting a relatively new look this spring: pitching out of the bullpen.
The "D-Train" has appeared in 205 major league games, and he started all but three of them. However, based on the .127 batting average that lefties had against Dontrelle last season, the Phillies are hoping that Willis can catch on as a second lefty out of the bullpen this spring.
This is the same Dontrelle Willis who won 22 games with a 2.63 ERA and finished second in National League Cy Young voting in 2005. Again, he has only pitched out of the bullpen three times in his entire career.
It'll be interesting to see how he adapts to his new look as a reliever.
Photo Credit: Philly.com
Jonathan Papelbon better be ready for a whole lot of new looks in 2012. He'll be adjusting to a change of scenery after spending his whole career in Boston, attempting to become the leader of the Phils bullpen and trying his hardest to avoid his monster contract outweighing his play in pressure situations.
Brought to Philly in one of the earliest big moves of the offseason, Papelbon apparently relishes the challenge of pitching under pressure and lofty expectations. That's good, since there will be plenty of both this season.
A guy who, due to his contract, could become an easy scapegoat if the Phillies falter, Papelbon will be counted on to lead and bring together the Phillies' entire bullpen. Through his successes and struggles, Brad Lidge set the precedent for Phillies closers by almost always speaking after games as both a team leader and someone who was accountable for his actions on the field.
If Jonathan Papelbon wants to be a leader on this year's team, he'll be expected to do the same.
As we all know, Cole Hamels will be looking like someone playing for a big, new contract in 2012. Set to become a free agent after this season, you can bet that Cole Hamels will be working his butt off to prove that he is worthy of being paid like one of the top pitchers in the major leagues.
Hopefully, Hamels and the Phillies can come together on a new contract sooner rather than later, but if not, it will be interesting to see how the whole "contract year" dynamic plays out throughout the spring and regular season.
Will the stress of playing for a new contract affect the way Hamels handles himself in interviews, with teammates and even with fans?
You can be sure it'll affect the way he handles himself on the mound, as he'll look to be more locked in than ever this upcoming season.
It's got to be tough to prepare for the season when 90 percent of the fans and sports media around you are discussing different ways you could be traded, but that's what Joe Blanton has to deal with this spring.
Even though "Heavy B" helped the Phillies win a World Series in 2008, his hefty price tag for 2012 has been the main subject of conversation coming into this season. With his contract being accused of preventing the Phillies from signing Roy Oswalt and given that the Phillies even considered swapping him for A.J. Burnett, it's safe to say Blanton is somewhat of a marked man this spring.
Though never spectacular, Blanton has been a solid pitcher throughout his career, and he is still someone who can eat plenty of innings as a nice piece at the back of the rotation. Amid all the swirling trade rumors, Joe will be getting ready to do just that this spring.
Tough as nails throughout his entire career, Chase Utley will have to wear the look of the cautious competitor this spring.
With his knees in questionable condition at best, Utley won't be expected to play in nearly as many games this season as he'd probably like and will certainly not be overexerted in spring training. After admitting that the warning-track fly ball he hit in Game 5 against the Cardinals last year might have been a home run in previous seasons, the Phillies need Utley to conserve the strength left in his legs as much as possible.
While I'm sure it will be hard for the ultra-competitive Utley to take more games off in 2012, his legs need all the rest they can get in order to maximize his effectiveness this year.