I have to preface this by saying I couldn’t be happier with the Phillies new 125 million dollar man, and I’ll never be one to second-guess the Phils for it.
Congratulations, Ryan. You deserve it.
And kudos, Phils, for getting your biggest homework assignment done early.
OK, now for the main event…
As I skimmed over my 2010 Phillies Pocket Schedule one day last month, one particular homestand stood out to me.
There are no Hatfield Dollar Dog Nights during this homestand.
But that’s beside the point.
At the time, I viewed this stretch as a golden opportunity for the Phillies to gain an early upper hand on some potentially stiff NL competition. As it turns out, the South Philly stars could be aligning in a way that will help the Phils make the most of that opportunity, despite their struggles out west.
The stars could be aligning for the Phillies, because their stars should be returning from the DL over the course of the next week.
Jimmy Rollins (right calf strain) has been on the DL for two weeks. No exact date has been pinpointed for his return, but he could be back during the second half of the homestand. Utility man Juan Castro has filled in remarkably well in J-Roll’s absence, but there’s no question the Phils missed their offensive table setter. Rollins was absolutely on fire (9-for-23, 7 walks, .516 OBP) before sustaining his injury prior to the Phillies Home Opener on April 12. The lineup’s on another level when he’s hot.
Joe Blanton (oblique injury), the Phils’ expected No. 3 starter through Spring Training, should make his first ML start of the season against St. Louis, perhaps on Monday. Blanton has lost just eight times in 49 starts during his Phillies career (including the postseason) and should add stability to a starting rotation that has depended far too heavily on its ace (that Roy Halladay guy) dominating once every fifth game.
And then there’s “Lights Out” Brad Lidge. He’s recovering from knee and elbow surgery and will be activated for this weekend’s showdown with the red-hot Mets.
It could be a good thing that Lidge is starting out 2010 at Citizens Bank Park as opposed to on the road. In 2009, Lidge appeared in 33 home games and 34 on the road. Only one of his 11 blown saves in 2009 came at home.
Last year, he was 0-2 with 6.10 ERA at CBP and 0-6 with an 8.46 ERA on the road. His opponents’ average was .273 at home, yet .331 on the road. Lidge beginning 2010 in Philadelphia should be a small psychological lift for him.
Of course, J.A. Happ is now on the DL. So life’s not perfect for Philly, but good enough.
The Phils will be getting healthier, and they’re at home. So, now’s a great time for them to buck their perennial, early-season trend of struggling at Citizens Bank Park.
After scuffling at CBP for most of 2008, the Phillies went a remarkable 25-6 at home after August 9 through the postseason en route to the World Series championship.
By June 23 last season, the Phillies were 24-9 on the road, yet just 13-22 at home. But the Phillies compiled a 32-14 record at Citizens Bank Park past that point, ignited by a 9-1 homestand in early July against New York, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.
The Phils have the ability to play lights-out baseball at home. And rest-assured, they will. But, just as in year’s past, the only question is when that’ll happen. Of course, this homestand against three respectable NL teams is the perfect place to start.
But what if they don’t?
Well, there’s absolutely no reason to panic. In early May, the so-called Power Rankings are a complete was of time and space, while the MLB standings are next to meaningless. The Phillies know that. And based on past seasons, the New York Mets—the current leaders of the NL East—should know that, too.