Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Things to Look for in Spring Training
Pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater, Fla. earlier this week, and that means a new Philadelphia Phillies season is just around the corner.
For the first time since 2008, the Phillies are not the defending NL East champions. However, 2008 was the year the Phillies won their second World Championship in their club's history. So will this be a season to remember or a season we hope soon to forget?
Here are five things as Phillies fans we should look for in spring training to tell if the Phils have a shot at the NL East title this year.
How Will the Players React to Charlie Manuel?
It may seem too early to tell how the team will react to Manuel this season, but spring training might have some signs if the team, especially the young guys, are going to react to Charlie's managing style positively or block out the manager in the last year of his contract.
If guys like Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf decide it isn't worth listening to Charlie Manuel's instructions, it's going to be a long season in South Philly.
Who Will Start in the Outfield?
Speaking of guys like Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown, the outfield is a total mess. The only person in ink right now is Ben Revere in center field, but the left and right field positions need to be clearly earned by two players if the Phillies are going to be successful.
Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry and Delmon Young all have a shot at those two positions. That is unless you believe GM Ruben Amaro that Delmon Young is inked in as a starter too, but most Phillies fans have a "see it to believe it" attitude when it comes to Young.
If spring training breaks and the starters at the corners are starting by default, the Phillies are going to have issues in the field and in the batter's box.
WIll Michael Young Be the Third Baseman the Phillies Hope He Is?
We'll get the negatives out of the way first.
Michael Young played only 25 games at third base last year. Michael Young hasn't played third base on a full-time basis since 2010. Michael Young had the lowest batting average since his rookie year last year. Michael Young is 36 years old.
All of those things may lead you to believe that having Michael Young at third may be a huge problem for the Phillies this year, but here are some positives.
Michael Young batted .277 last year, Pedro Feliz only batted .249 and .266 in the two years the Phillies went to the World Series. His 67 RBI last year would be more than any season of productivity we have gotten in the past three years out of Placido Polanco. Young has never been a great fielder, but he hasn't been terrible, either. And with all of the options out there, Michael Young may have been the best option the Phillies could have gone with.
If Michael Young can bat .280 this year and get to around 80 RBI, it will be considered a very successful move for the Phillies, two goals that Michael Young definitely can reach.
Can Roy Halladay Return to Form?
The other night, the MLB Network showed highlights of Roy Halladay's no-hitter in the playoffs against the Reds in 2010. That seems like ages ago compared to how last season ended.
In his last four starts of the season last year, Roy Halladay averaged an ERA of 9.00. If that continues, the Phillies will have no shot at making the playoffs this year. But if Roy Halladay can come close to returning to form, the Phillies will be in very good shape.
With Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee behind him, Roy doesn't necessarily have to be the best pitcher in baseball, but he needs to look like a top-10 No. 1 starter this year to set the tone for any series and take the pressure off of the rest of the rotation.
How Will the Bullpen Look This Year?
It wasn't a secret that the Phillies were atrocious last year in the eighth inning. GM Ruben Amaro hopes that new edition Mike Adams will fix those issues. But the biggest key for the Phillies this year will be how the bullpen performs as a unit.
Can Jonathan Papelbon have a solid year this year? Will Mike Adams be the perfect setup man? What can we expect out of guys like Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo, Michael Schwimer and Chad Durbin? Will Kyle Kendrick be in the rotation or the pen?
If this team is going to make a run this year, the bullpen has to be solid. There are some minor things to look for in spring training too, such as:
Will Charlie Manuel let Ben Revere lead off? (I doubt Jimmy Rollins will let that happen.) Are Ryan Howard and Chase Utley finally healthy? (All signs point to yes.) How will the Phillies react without Carlos Ruiz for the first 25 games (I don't think we can tell until the season starts.)
These five keys will eventually lead to either a long playoff run or a very boring September.