It may be early in the season, but it's never too early for a few surprises, and the Philadelphia Phillies have certainly provided plenty of those through the first couple of series of the 2012 season.
With guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jose Contreras on the disabled list, we knew that the Phillies wouldn't look like they have in years past, at least through the first couple months of the season, but who knew that rookie Freddy Galvis would start every game at second base? Who knew that Joe Savery would break camp with the club?
The short version of this story is that nothing has gone according to plan for the Phillies so far this season, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The Phillies have shown an uncanny ability to adjust on the fly in recent seasons, and they're at it again early in 2012.
This slide show is using the Phillies 25-man roster as of April 14, 2012 and uses statistics up to that date.
For news, rumors, analysis and game recaps during spring training, check out Greg's blog: The Phillies Phactor!
Surprise: Carlos Ruiz has been one of the best hitters in the Phillies lineup.
With the way that Ruiz was swinging the bat in spring training, this may not be much of a surprise at all, but those numbers don't usually translate to the regular season.
Chooch's did. The Phillies backstop has been tearing the cover off of the ball, making solid contact night in and night out and even flashing a bit of power. His .946 OPS (as of April 14) is the best mark of a Phillies regular by a wide margin.
It may be time to move him up in the order and see what he can do.
Surprise: John Mayberry, Jr.'s power has been nonexistent.
The Phillies were counting on Mayberry to provide a little power from the right batter's box this season, and early in the season, he hasn't shown the slightest glimpse that he is going to do that.
Mayberry's spring slump has carried right over into the regular season, and through the first couple series of the year, his power has been non-existent, his only extra-base hit coming in the form of a double.
If he is unable to turn it around at the plate, the Phillies may be in some serious trouble.
Surprise: Freddy Galvis has started nearly all of the Phillies' games at second base.
When the Phillies headed north out of spring training, we all knew that the club liked Freddy Galvis, but did we know that they liked him this much?
The rookie shortstop-turned-second baseman started every game at second base for the Phillies before Pete Orr gave him a breather last Sunday, even after opening the season mired in an 0-for-13 slump.
Galvis has turned it around at the plate recently, showing that he can hit for a tad bit of power as well as make solid contact, but to see the Phillies start him at second base every single day, when Ty Wigginton started there fairly regularly over the spring, has been a bit of a surprise.
Surprise: Jimmy Rollins' adjustment to the middle of the order has included more "small ball."
The Phillies have been trying to get Rollins to play more "small ball" forever. Finally, after sitting down and having a conversation with Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt during spring training, it seems as though Rollins is playing more small ball, which would include bunts, bunting for a base hit, hit and run, etc.
Now we have to wonder whether or not that's a good thing.
The Phillies have been hitting Rollins third in the batting order early in the season, and those small-ball tactics are usually reserved for the top or bottom of the order. Normally, a club would rather see their middle of the order clearing the bases—not setting the table for the bottom half.
Surprise: Placido Polanco has struggled to get anything going offensively early in 2012.
Polanco was swinging a hot bat coming out of spring training and finally looked healthy for the first time in a long time when the Phillies opened their season in Pittsburgh.
While he may be healthy, that hot spring training bat has become ice-cold early in the season. The Phillies third baseman is hitting right at the Mendoza Line and posting an OPS of .426.
He is a third baseman with no power, so if the Phillies want to see any production out of the hot corner, he is going to need to turn the contact machine into high gear, and fast.
Surprise: Charlie Manuel continues to stick with Juan Pierre at the top of the order against most right-handed starters.
In theory, it isn't strange to see Pierre at the top of an order. He is a gritty, singles machine with the ability to swipe a base or two. Or, he could lay down a perfect drag bunt and leg out a hit. Speed kills, or so they say.
In practice, the Phillies haven't been using Pierre very efficiently. Charlie Manuel has been running the hard-nosed outfielder out against right-handed pitchers this season, when in all actuality, Pierre and his late, contact-producing swing are better suited to hit left-handed pitchers.
He is not an everyday player anymore, which is the first problem, but the Phillies aren't going to get much out of Pierre the way he is currently being used.
Surprise: Shane Victorino has continued to be one of the Phillies' best hitters despite his position in the lineup changing frequently.
Shane Victorino hasn't produced many surprises this season. In fact, he has been one of the few players on this roster playing up to their abilities.
What I find surprising about Victorino is his ability to stay consistent despite his spot in the batting order being in flux. It's something we hear players and managers talk about all the time. They don't like to change their batting order much because players can't get comfortable.
That doesn't seem to be the case for Victorino, who has hit at the top of the order, third and lower in the middle of the order this season and has still produced for the struggling Phillies.
Surprise: Hunter Pence has come out of the gate on fire.
April is traditionally a month where a lot of hitters struggle, and Hunter Pence has struggled early in the season in the past. With pitchers normally a lot further along than hitters in rounding into form, that isn't much of a surprise.
Pence, however, is laughing at that notion this season.
After swinging a hot bat in spring training, Pence picked right up where he left off once the club reached Pittsburgh for Opening Day, hitting a home run in that series. The Phillies haven't scored many runs, but Pence's four RBI are second most on the team, and he is hitting .290 to boot.
Surprise: Jim Thome hasn't made more starts.
Coming out of spring training, it sure looked as though Thome would be making plenty of starts at first base early in the season, but that hasn't been the case.
Though the plan all along had been to play Thome about twice a week at first base, the slugger had adjusted so well in spring training that I thought you would have to restrain Charlie Manuel to keep him out of the lineup.
Instead, Thome hasn't made many starts at all, even against right-handed pitchers, where John Mayberry, Jr. has been given the nod several times.
Surprise: Ty Wigginton hasn't done more at the plate.
A lot of this probably has to do with the simple fact that he is playing nearly every day, but Wigginton has been bad at the plate for most of his short tenure in a Phillies uniform.
Along with a solo home run, Wigginton's only other extra-base hit was a double. In total, he has collected four hits in 18 at-bats, driving in five runs. It is a solid start, but the Phillies are going to need him to hit with a little more thunder if he is going to hit in the middle of the order.
The Phillies simply need Wigginton to start showing some of that right-handed pop that made him valuable in a trade.
Surprise: Laynce Nix has been practically invisible early in the season.
I keep feeling the urge to compare Nix to that oh-so elusive Waldo from the classic game Where's Waldo?, and that's not a good thing.
The Phillies brought him aboard over the winter to provide some left-handed thunder off of the bench, but also to split some time with right-handed counterparts at first base and in left field.
Obviously, that hasn't been the case. Nix has just one hit to his credit this season: an RBI double. The culprit is a noticeably slower bat speed, maybe slowed down by a spring rib injury, but who can say for certain?
Surprise: Pete Orr hasn't found a way to contribute.
You have to wonder if the Phillies would have been better off carrying an extra pitcher early in the season?
With Chase Utley on the disabled list, Pete Orr found his way onto the 25-man roster by laying claim to the final spot coming out of spring training, but he hasn't been heard from since.
Sunday's game marked the first time all season Orr has entered a ball game, and here, we all thought the Phillies would be using their bench more effectively this season.
Surprise: Brian Schneider remains hit-less on the season; serves as Vance Worley's personal catcher.
The surprise for Schneider early in the season is two-fold.
First and foremost, I find it surprising that Schneider has yet to collect his first hit of the season despite making a couple of starts. Sure, no one expected the Phillies back-up catcher to do much hitting, but this is a little extreme. After all, his first two hits in 2011 happened to be home runs.
The second surprise is that, though Charlie Manuel will refute this claim, Schneider continues to serve as Vance Worley's personal catcher. It's an interesting fact. The two work well together, but why is Carlos Ruiz, one of the best defensive catchers in the game, being kept from catching one of the Phillies starters?
Surprise: Roy Halladay has come out of the gate practically untouchable.
So, Halladay apparently took some offense to a report during spring training that he was dealing with some kind of injury.
"Doc" decided that once the regular season rolled around, he was going to show FOX Sports what he was really capable of and pitch like a "gangbuster" when the games count.
All he has done is allow one run in 15 innings and collect two wins.
Actually, I can't say that is much of a surprise, but what else did you expect from the most consistent pitcher in baseball?
Surprise: Cliff Lee hasn't gotten on track just yet.
Lee is the type of pitcher that you expect to come out of the gates on fire, and he hasn't done that this season.
That is kind of surprising considering how well he was going during spring training, when he was able to locate all of his pitches wherever he wanted in the strike zone, be it inside or outside, up or down.
Though he pitched well in his first outing of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates, it was clear that he didn't have his best "stuff" that night, and he got roughed up a bit in his second start of the season against the New York Mets.
He's the type of pitcher that you know will find his groove. The surprise is that he hasn't done it yet.
Surprise: The Phillies and Cole Hamels haven't made much progress on a contract extension.
Hamels has made just one start during the regular season, and it was pretty much what you'd expect out of him. Sure, he was hung with the loss and gave up four runs (three earned,) but he also struck out nine and didn't allow a single walk.
What I find truly surprising is that he and the Phillies haven't made much progress on a contract extension. Several news outlets have reported that the two sides haven't spoken in more than a month's time.
That last tidbit is surprising in and of itself, since the Phillies seem to know what it will take to re-sign Hamels (a Cliff Lee-type deal) and have gone on the record saying that they can afford to make it happen.
So why haven't they?
Surprise: Vance Worley scrapped Roy Halladay's split-fingered change-up.
There haven't been many surprises about Worley this season. He was really good during his first start of the year against the Pittsburgh Pirates and not so good during his second start against the New York Mets.
That's kind of what you should expect out of Worley. He'll have his good starts and his bad ones.
I found it kind of surprising that he has already given up on the split-fingered change-up grip that Roy Halladay has mastered. It is a great pitch that he'd be able to throw in any situation if he can come to control it and would serve as a great complement to his heavy two-seamer/ sinker.
Surprise: Joe Blanton has shown flashes of being much more than trade bait.
You probably shouldn't go and get your hopes up, but Joe Blanton looked very good during his first start of the season.
It wasn't just "flash in the pan good" either. Blanton had all of his pitches working for him against the Miami Marlins. The highlight was a good fastball that he was able to locate in the lower half of the strike zone. He mixed in that big curveball and an ever-improving change-up and allowed just three hits.
If Blanton can prove to be an effective starter this season, it would be a huge boost for the Phillies.
Surprise: The Phillies have shown a willingness to use Kyle Kendrick in bigger situations out of the bullpen.
The transformation of Kendrick has been incredible.
At one point during the 2011 season, it seemed as though pitching coach Rich Dubee would have preferred Kendrick be shipped off to an island somewhere. He was pitching in the rotation, out of the bullpen, in mop-up games and everything else under the sun, but he struggled at times.
It seems as though both have turned the page in 2012. Kendrick's improving cutter has given him a legitimate out-pitch against left-handed hitters, who have shelled him in the past, and the Phillies have increased his role accordingly.
It seems as though the mop-up days are gone for Kendrick, who has pitched more frequently in the later innings this season out of the bullpen.
Surprise: Not only did Joe Savery make the club out of spring training, but he has been effective.
It's clear through the first couple of series this regular season that Savery still has some work to do, so it is impressive that he made the MLB roster at all coming out of spring training.
However, now that Savery is pitching with the Phillies, he is opening some eyes. He has used his fastball/slider repertoire effectively thus far, with his only blemish being the one home run he surrendered.
With Jose Contreras ready to return to the bullpen, Savery was the odd man out, but with the way he has been pitching, he will certainly be back.
Surprise: David Herndon proving he belongs in the MLB.
A lot of Phillies fans have been calling for Herndon's head, but the right-handed reliever is doing his best to prove that he belongs in the MLB.
Though he has allowed four hits thus far, Herndon has used his sinker effectively to neutralize damage and prove that he can log innings out of the bullpen. He may not be closer material, but a cost-efficient reliever who can get outs certainly has value.
Surprise: After threat of early-season injury, Mike Stutes showing that he can be healthy and effective.
After a rough couple of outings at the end of spring training, it was revealed that Stutes was dealing with some arm issues as the regular season turned into view. A trip to the disabled list was a possibility, but after testing the arm in a couple of minor league games, Stutes broke camp with the Phillies.
With the injury concern out of the way, Stutes has had to prove once again that he can be a viable option, and he has.
Though his control could still use some work, Stutes has pitched well for the Phillies early in the season, allowing just one earned run and punching out three.
Surprise: Though he has been effective thus far, Antonio Bastardo's potent fastball / slider repertoire hasn't showed up yet.
Bastardo caused a bit of a stir during the spring when people began to notice that his usual fastball velocity wasn't there. Turns out he was dealing with a tight forearm—a side-effect of dehydration.
With that issue squared away, Bastardo made a couple of more spring outings. The velocity still wasn't there. Neither was the sharp bite on his slider. A couple of regular season outings in, and not much has changed.
Bastardo has pitched well, but his normal velocity and sharp breaking ball just aren't there yet. That will be something to watch moving forward.
Surprise: Chad Qualls has emerged as the club's set-up man.
After the Phillies signed Qualls in the offseason, the club's general manager, Ruben Amaro Jr., told the media that the team's scouts noted that Qualls was throwing hard at the end of the season—in the mid 90s.
At the time, it sounded like a stretch. When the Phillies hit the road out of camp, however, we found out that they weren't lying.
Qualls' fastball is a big, heavy sinker, and he has certainly been throwing it in the mid 90s, and consistently. He has mixed in a sharp breaking ball, and that combination has allowed him to grab the reigns as the Phillies set-up man.
Surprise: Jonathan Papelbon will change his entrance music before each outing.
Listen. There haven't been many surprises about Papelbon early in the season. Just about everything he's shown thus far is something we already knew.
He's an energetic guy. He does that creepy stare before each pitch. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and his splitter is absolutely ridiculous. We knew all that.
But here's a surprise about me: I'm an entrance music junkie. It's just one of those little facets about the game that makes it all the more loveable for me, and Papelbon's entrance music was a bit of a secret throughout the spring after he had to ditch the Dropkick Murphy's "Shipping Up to Boston."
In his first home outing, he came out to Alice in Chain's "Man in the Box." Great choice. The "won't you come and save me" line really hit home.
In his next outing, he changed it again, as Marilyn Manson's "Antichrist Superstar" blared over the speakers. Another great choice.
Then it changed again. Entering another non save situation, Papelbon rocked Metallica's "For Whom the Bells Toll."
That's because Papelbon made it clear that he plans to change his entrance music before every outing! Seems like a lot of work, but if that's what makes the man "tick," then get ready for a closer's musical smorgasbord.