The beginning of the Philadelphia Phillies' most anticipated season to date starts tomorrow afternoon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Citizens Bank Park at 1:05 p.m. EDT when Roy Halladay starts for the Phillies against their former "ace" Brett Myers, who will be starting for the Houston Astros to begin a three-game series.
This season is undoubtedly one that all Phillies fans are looking forward to, and one that they hopefully will never forget for all the right reasons.
With the addition of Cliff Lee back in December to their already-stellar pitching rotation consisting of Halladay, Roy Oswalt, who was acquired from the Houston Astros at last season's trade deadline, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, the Phillies have the best rotation baseball has seen for a while, they are favorites to win the NL Pennant, and they are favored by many to win it all as well.
First, the obvious: will the Phillies rotation live up to the hype?
Assuming all goes well for the rotation this season, there shouldn't be any issues with the rotation. Even if one of their pitchers was injured, the Phillies can still perform extremely well. They didn't even have Cliff Lee last season and they still led the major leagues in wins, with 97.
Then comes the question of whether the Phillies will be able to win the World Series, as many people believe they will. It is definitely possible, though their biggest threat in the World Series (assuming they make it there, but twists can always occur) would be the Boston Red Sox. They enhanced their strong lineup by signing free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal and by acquiring power hitting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres. This, along with their pitching rotation, poses a huge threat for anyone who faces them.
If these two teams face off in the World Series, it sure would be one to remember.
However, while the rotation is a huge plus, not all is well for the Phillies. Injuries have plagued them this past spring training, including Chase Utley's right knee tendinitis, Brad Lidge's bicep tendinitis and now rotator cuff strain, and Domonic Brown's hand fracture, among others. Here are some questions that the Phillies and their fans might (and probably do) have about their injured players.
Will Chase Utley make a full, fast recovery?
Unfortunately fellow Phillies fans, the answer to this question is most likely no. Chase Utley has been battling this issue for quite some time, but not until recently did it become serious enough to bench him. He's currently on the DL and the timetable for his return is uncertain at this point. Utley hopes that he can make it back by the All-Star break, if not earlier. Regardless, they'll be without their star second baseman for quite some time.
Another question looming is this: With Brad Lidge on the DL, who will take his place as closer and will he succeed?
I wrote an article about this yesterday, which speaks about the extent of Lidge's injury and his likely fill-in, Jose Contreras. Brad Lidge has a strain in the posterior of his right shoulder rotator cuff. This is the equivalent of a tear, though it is still referred to as a strain, and though the amount of time Lidge will be out is at least until May and his return could be as late as July. Phillies fans are hoping for a speedy recovery and, in the meantime, a good effort by Contreras.
Related to Domonic Brown's injury, one of the biggest questions Phillies fans are asking is this: Who will be replacing Jayson Werth in right field, and will he be able to fill the void Werth has left?
In case you haven't already heard, since Brown broke his hand after getting his first hit in spring training, he will be out until at least mid-April. For now, Ben Francisco will be the everyday starter in right field.
This, for the moment, is a good decision. This spring, Francisco posted a .361 batting average, five home runs, 14 RBI, an on-base percentage of .439 and a decent .667 slugging percentage, which amounts to a 1.106 OPS. That's pretty darn good.
John Mayberry, Jr. will be the primary backup right fielder to Francisco until Brown returns, and he is a great option as well. Overall, there shouldn't be any major problems in right field this season.
Granted, Werth was a fantastic offensive and defensive producer for the Phillies, and Francisco in all likelihood won't be able to completely fill the void, but he should still be able to hold his own.
A final question for now: How is Pladico Polanco doing following his injury troubles?
Polanco is doing fairly well. He had surgery in the offseason to remove bone chips from his left elbow. All was well until Polanco hyper-extended the same elbow in spring training. He says he should be fine for Opening Day, but the injury is still nothing to laugh at. Polanco is one of the Phillies' most productive hitters, and he is needed more than many give him credit for.
All things considered, the Phillies will be the team to beat in the National League and potentially the majors as a whole. The million dollar question is whether they can live up to their expectations.
It all starts tomorrow when Halladay delivers the first pitch of the Philadelphia Phillies' 2011 season.
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