We're well into spring training, and some storylines with the Philadelphia Phillies have emerged.
Ben Francisco has been stellar and is ready to replace Jayson Werth in right. We may even see Francisco in Werth's 5-hole slot by season's end.
Domonic Brown broke his hand at the wrong time. He's been in free-fall in camp, and he needed as much spring training as possible. He needs to regain his confidence.
Chase Utley's knee has raised some concerns.
Other than that, everything's just dandy.
I’ve stated in previous articles that Ryan Howard has tweaked his batting stance; he's standing closer to the plate.
Howard struggles against those crafty lefties with the long, sweeping sliders.
I just want to see Howard hit the ball hard the other way. As for his glove, I’d also like to see improvement with his throw to second.
With Domonic Brown out for the next four to six weeks, the starting right fielding job is Ben Francisco’s.
John Mayberry Jr. will be the fourth outfielder. At 27, he’s at a crossroads in his major league career.
Contrary to some Phillies fans, I felt like the injury to Brown was a hindrance. With his hands moving up and down like a yo-yo, it’s evident Brown needed those spring training at-bats to improve his psyche at the plate.
Another thing, he also needs more experience in the field. He continues to misjudge balls off the bat, although he makes up for it with his extraordinary athleticism.
Currently, Brad Lidge’s fastball is registering at just 86 MPH. As his arm continues to warm as spring training progresses, that fastball should garner some more velocity.
Granted, he’s seen a decrease in his velocity over recent years, but 86 MPH is slow for him.
Chase Utley's knee has me a bit concerned. No one knows how that knee will hold up over the course of the season. Health is the main concern, so sitting Utley for the rest of spring training would be best.
Last season, Wilson Valdez was arguably the most valuable Phillie. He filled in remarkably and flew past Juan Castro on the depth chart.
If Valdez can have another solid season, it’ll make Charlie Manuel’s decision easier to sit Utley more during the year.
Valdez is currently 9-for-17 during spring training.
Throw the numbers aside for the starters, although the numbers have been solid so far.
All I’m looking for out of the starting pitchers is command with the fastball and secondary pitches.
I watched Cliff Lee pitch in his first spring training game, and he was consistently bouncing his curveball in the dirt. That won’t happen during the regular season.
Yesterday, Roy Oswalt struggled with the command of his fastball, but again, that won’t happen during the season.
This is a question that may not be answered fully until the middle of the regular season.
Ben Francisco has been hot lately and certainly has his name entered into the equation.
With Jimmy Rollins most likely leading off, it looks like the 5-hole will either be Shane Victorino or Francisco.
I spoke about Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer and Michael Stutes last week. Each struggled in their debuts.
Stutes has been the best statistically of the three. He’s appeared in three games, thrown five innings and has a 1.80 ERA with eight strikeouts.
De Fratus and Schwimer haven’t found it yet.
With Domonic Brown way behind schedule, the pressure on Raul Ibanez gets turned up.
John Mayberry Jr. is currently slated as the fourth outfielder, so Ibanez needs to perform.
As for his at-bats, like Ryan Howard, I just want Ibanez to get some good swings in and spray the ball around.
With such a dominant rotation, the bullpen won’t be used as much as other bullpens around baseball, but they still have to be effective.
So far, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez and J.C. Romero have combined to pitch 5.1 innings. They’ve yet to allow an earned run.
Kyle Kendrick has looked really good.
He’s thrown five innings, and he too has yet to allow an earned run. He’s got something to prove and is showing some good signs so far in camp.
Worley has been OK. In six innings of work, Worley has allowed 10 hits and has a 4.50 ERA.