For the Philadelphia Phillies, the biggest worry coming into spring training was probably centered around which nickname was best for their amazing rotation. The Fantastic Four, Four Aces, Four Horseman, R2C2, Mound Rushmore (nice), or Phour Loco.
My personal favorite, being a rap fan, is Fat Joe and the Terror Squad. It gets bonus points for incorporating the entire rotation into the nickname, since the starters have been making it a point to always include Joe Blanton.
But the talk in recent days has turned to injuries—with the broken hand suffered by Dominic Brown and the cortisone shot to Chase Utley's right knee.
While the rotation gives people in Philadelphia a reason to be excited, the lineup and the recent injury issues also give them a reason to be concerned.
With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the bench and some of the Phils' backups who may see more playing time than originally expected, as well as the impact that these changes would have on the batting lineup.
We'll start off with the outfield, which now seems locked in with Ben Francisco in right, Shane Victorino in center and Raul Ibanez in left. Dominic Brown's fractured hand and recovery time make it likely that he'll start off the season on the DL and possibly in Triple-A. That leaves us with a backup group consisting mainly of John Mayberry Jr. and Ross Gload, with Delwyn Young also a possibility.
Does the lack of depth off the bench concern you?
Ruben Amaro Jr. has been quoted saying he won't bring in an outside player to add depth—but, then again, he's been known to pull off a surprise deal from time to time as well.
That being said, it will be tough to pull off this time, with all of their recent dealings having left them with little in terms of tradable assets.
Some of the names that are rumored to be available include former player Aaron Rowand and Mike Cameron, currently of the Boston Red Sox.
When it comes to the infield, the go-to bench player is Wilson Valdez. Whether it's second base, shortstop or third base, he's the first-choice backup. This is where the lack of depth on the team could really rear its ugly head.
I mentioned Delwyn Young as a possible outfield replacement earlier and he's also an option at second base, where he's started 57 games in the majors.
Either way, while the defense would remain solid, the offense may find itself in a real struggle if Utley misses serious time. Some names that would be considered if Utley is seriously injured include Kelly Johnson, Aaron Hill and Mike Aviles.
Going into the season, there were already questions about who would takeover for Jayson Werth as the fifth hitter in the lineup—if Utley is to miss significant time, it's going to shake up the order even more. However, if his injury is not such a big deal and he can play through the pain, the lineup is likely to be Rollins, Polanco, Utley, Howard, Francisco, Ibanez, Victorino, Ruiz and the pitcher.
But if Valdez has to fill in for Utley then it's really anyone's guess as to what Charlie Manuel's batting order will be. He used Ibanez in the three hole a number of times last year and has, on occasion, used Rollins in the three spot with Victorino leading off.
This team is only three years removed from giving Philadelphia a sports championship and mostly eliminating that mindset of eventual doom that Philly fans had for their sports teams. Combine that with the offseason addition of Cliff Lee and it has put the fans in the awkward position of believing that success was a certainty.
Now that the initial hoopla surrounding the starting rotation has settled and Utley's knee problems have persisted, I think a little bit of the doom-and-gloom mindset might be creeping back into the fans' minds.
Being a former doom-and-gloomer myself, I'm proud to say that I'm refraining from pushing the panic button—but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that my finger paused for a second when it passed over it.