As the Phils get ready for their first spring training game, tomorrow, against Florida State, they have made several announcements after the arrival of all of their players to camp:
1) Charlie Manuel announced that the team was going to do some more small ball this season, which was quickly emphasised by him talking to the team’s lead-off man, and one of the leaders of the team, Jimmy Rollins last Thursday. This was followed by announcements that he was going to allow possible Hall of Famer Jim Thome to help some of the hitters improve on their hitting approach, and that he was going to have them bunt more (for base hits). Mike Schmidt, who is now in camp as a special coach, will also be helping the batters’ with their hitting approach, along with fellow Hall of Famer, and Iron Pigs coach Ryne Sandburg, while staying in camp a bit longer. While this is good news, since using small ball, as well as stealing more bases, should give the opposing defenses something to think about, I will not be convinced until the Phils leave Florida in late March with Juan Pierre as one of their players coming off the bench, since he would be a good option to use late in games because of both his speed and bat control.
2) Jose Contreras had another bullpen session, and is continuing to pitch fine with no elbow trouble, according to pitching coach Rich Dubee. This is good news, as it should give the team several good eighth innings options between him, Antonio Bastardo and Chad Qualls, if all three players make the team out of spring training.
3) And speaking of pitchers, starter Cliff Lee missed a bullpen session last week because of abdominal problems, and was told to skip the session. Lee said that he is feeling fine now and should be able to pitch in a bullpen session today. Hopefully, it was only a temporary problem.
4) Speaking of players’ health, Ryan Howard is right now in Baltimore, having a check-up with foot and ankle specialist Mark Myerson, to check on his achilles tendon, to make sure that there’s no problem with it, since it was mentioned during the weekend that Howard was having a delayed reaction to the sutures. GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. later announced that they doubt that it was a major problem. Anyway, it should help the Phils decide how they should continue their approach on Howard’s rehab, although they don’t really expect him back until about late May at the earliest. My opinion is that they should take as much time as they can to get Howard back healthy, as they already have a few options to play first base.
and 5), Chase Utley has announced that he should be able to come back from his leg troubles last year, while it is expected that he will be given the occasional rest, to help his legs, while Placido Polanco has announced that he is ready to go.