As the Philadelphia Phillies get ready to head north and defend their World Series title, there are some questions surrounding the team as they enter the season.
Did the Phillies make the right choice in selecting Chan Ho Park as the No. 5 starter over youngster J.A. Happ?
While both had similar numbers this spring, it is easy to see why the Phillies went with Park—for now.
Park, who unlike Happ does not have any minor league options, brings experience and flexibility to the Phillies rotation. He will be available to pitch out of the bullpen for the first two games of the season, and his experience in relief was also a deciding factor in keeping him over Happ.
That being said, I believe Happ is the better pitcher. Don't get me wrong, both pitched well, but I have never been a Park fan. Just three years ago it looked as if he was on his last legs, and his season last year for the Dodgers saved him.
Another reason the Phillies made the right choice was simply because of the egos of both pitchers. Although the Phillies signed Park to be a "swingman" between the rotation and bullpen, Park has not once said anything other than he wants to be a starter.
Making him the No. 5 pitcher in the rotation does wonders for his confidence, and also team chemistry, as now Park will not go disgruntled into the bullpen. If he pitches badly and Happ takes his spot, Park will then have no one to blame but himself.
Secondly, there has been a lot of talk lately about adding Garry Sheffield to the team as a right-handed bat off the bench.
Some have been in favor of this move, but I am not one of them. First, I like Miguel Cairo and his ability to play multiple positions off the bench. By signing Sheffield the team will now have a player who is a below average fielder at best.
Put him with Matt Stairs and the average defense of Raul Ibanez, and the Phillies have some issues defensively.
Although signing Sheffield for the veteran minimum ($450,000) is a low risk high-reward singing, just how high is the reward?
Remember, this guy is in his forties. He played on a horrible Tigers team last year, and was not productive for them at all as a designated hitter. Now the Phillies want Sheffield to switch leagues, play more defense, and come off the bench for the first time in his career.
Let the New York Mets have him.
There are a few things to look for once the season starts.
How are the Phillies’ new coaching staff going to affect the players in the field? Steve Smith was fired unjustly, and his replacement Sam Perlozzo will be counted on not to have as many runners thrown out as the out-of-control Smith.
Jimy Williams, finally realizing he stood no shot at taking Charlie Manuel's job, finally left as bench coach. How will new bench coach Pete Macanin work with Manuel? It will be important for Manuel to establish that the club's success last year was due to his choices, and not the help of Williams.
Secondly, let's see how good those Atlanta Braves look this year. They are one of my surprise teams of 2009, and the team will get to see them right off the bat.
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