I'm starting to worry about what Week 3 of spring training baseball is going to bring us. Because last week didn't exactly deliver a bushel full of good news concerning your hometown nine.
The Philadelphia Phillies had a rough week in Clearwater on a few fronts. First the team went 1-4-2, was outscored 36-25, and are now 2-8 this spring (although it should be noted, the Atlanta Braves are 2-9, so take the records with a grain of salt). Second, the offense continued to struggle, although as you'll see in a minute, it isn't exactly like the team has been fielding their ideal starting lineup every day. And third, the Cole Hamels mystery injury resurfaced last week, eliminating all the positive vibes surrounding the lanky left-hander just last week.
If the Phillies go 70-92, will Amaro claim that the season was a success because they improved so much from the spring?— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) March 8, 2014
Yeah, it was that kind of week.
Of course, everything you read below comes with the caveat that it's only spring training, the games don't matter, and the players aren't really maximizing their efforts yet.
COLE HAMELS INJURY TAKES A TURN:
So this week, we had this...
In November, @NatalieEgenolf asked Cole Hamels on "Phillies Nation" for 1 sentence to uplift fans for 2014. His response was "I'm healthy."— Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidman) March 6, 2014
"Now, nobody FREAK OUT like you always do, but yes I did get cholera over the winter. See, you're freaking out!" --Cole Hamels— Justin Klugh (@justin_klugh) March 6, 2014
Yeah, the Hamels news. Last week Cole suffered a setback, and the terminology sounded eerily reminiscent of past injuries to Phils players that started off small and mushroomed into something much more significant. And it raised the issue of whether the Phillies have been mishandling their players' injuries over the past few years.
Ruben Amaro told WIP this week that he's still optimistic Hamels could return in the season's opening month.
"I think he'll be pitching sometime hopefully in April, and he'll be pitching from that point on until hopefully late into October and November," Amaro said.
Encouraging, even if Amaro did then caution against putting a definitive timetable on Hamels' return.
"We can't put any timeline on him because when you're in rehab, things don't go in a straight line all the time."
As for the much-debated topic of why Hamels wasn't given an MRI, Amaro said Hamels isn't in pain and the team's doctors have deemed it unneccessary.
"If we had an inkling on our $25 million pitcher, do you not think that we would put him under a tube if we felt it was absolutely necessary to do it? So the fact that we're not doing it, what does that tell you?"
Which of course puts the focus on...
THE BATTLE FOR THE NEW #5 ROTATION SPOT:
With Hamels out, attention turns to three men, Jeff Manship, Sean O'Sullivan and David Buchanan.
Phillies only use David Buchanan for an inning against the Orioles. Tea leaves say Jeff Manship and Sean O"Sullivan are the lead horses— David Murphy (@ByDavidMurphy) March 7, 2014
Given that information, it's important that Manship threw three quality innings on Sunday in the Phils' 1-1 tie with a bunch of players that reportedly play in the Minnesota Twins system, one of which was Joe Mauer, I believe.
Yes, Joe Mauer, from the video game commercials.
Manship threw strikes and kept the ball down on Sunday, inducing a lot of ground balls. In seven innings he's given up just one earned run, struck out six and walked one. O'Sullivan, meanwhile, has pitched five innings, struck out five and walked one, giving up no earned runs so far. And Buchanan has pitched three innings, given up one earned run, struck out three and walked none.
Clearly, we're not going to get enough information to truly decide who is the best candidate this spring. But, the Phils are going to have to make a decision based on these spring numbers, and all three pitchers will likely have an opportunity over the next couple weeks to secure that #5 spot in the rotation. As of now, Manship appears to be the man...ship.
NO OFFENSE, BUT THE BATS STINK:
You've been hearing a lot about the offense. Here's why.
Through 12 spring games, the Phillies are hitting .194 as a team. That's last in baseball. Their OPS is also last, at .595. The next closest is Detroit at .652. Bobby Abreu is hitting .111, Chase Utley is hitting .125, Cody Asche is hitting .150, Jimmy Rollins is hitting .167, Maikel Franco is hitting .182, and Ryan Howard is hitting .200.
However, these are small sample sizes and, based on the some of the lineups the Phillies trotted out last week, did you really expect the team to start pounding out the runs?
|LF||Tony Gwynn Jr.|
Clete Thomas, guys?
It's not exactly like the Phils are putting their best foot forward in some of these games. Sunday's lineup was especially entertaining, with Bobby Abreu in the 3-hole and a bottom three of Gwynn, Cedeno and Nieves. I'm surprised the Phillies finished with the two hits they did.
And before you stress too much more about the Phils' lack of hitting this spring, please note that the defending world champion Red Sox have the second-worst batting average this spring at .227, with the Dodgers in 28th at .228, and the Reds in 27th at .231.
Spring stats are meaningless. Want more proof? John Mayberry is hitting .353 and slugging .824 so far this spring.
So yeah. Chill your bones, people.
PHILS MAKE FIRST ROSTER CUTS:
There were no real surprises here.
Phillies option RHP Mike Stutes and Luis Garcia. Reassigned to minors: OFs Aaron Altherr, Kelly Dugan, Leandro Castro and C Sebastian Valle.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) March 8, 2014
Stutes was a solid bullpen arm a couple years ago, but injuries have sapped him of his strength, and the road back to the Majors appears to be a long one for him. Also,
Jesse Biddle has been re-assigned to minor league camp.— Phuture Phillies (@PhuturePhilz) March 8, 2014
Biddle only got three innings of game action in this spring, and gave up four earned runs on five hits, struck out three and walked two. It would have been nice to have Biddle ready to take the #5 spot in the rotation, but that would have been seriously rushing the kid. He needs more development time, and could even start the season in Reading. It's likely he'll get to Lehigh Valley this year, and perhaps could be a September call-up. Hopefully, he'll be ready for 2015.
With Cole Hamels out, you knew this was coming.
The Phillies might have checked in with Ervin Santana http://t.co/6vU0vS5Lw4— HardballTalk (@HardballTalk) March 7, 2014
Santana went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA last year for Kansas City, striking out almost seven batters per nine walking walking just over two, pitching to a WAR of 2.9 last year. That followed years in which he posted ERAs of 5.16, 3.38 and 3.92, making more than 30 starts in each of the last four years.
It's understandable why that rumor would get floated, given the news regarding Hamels. If Santana could be had on a one or two-year deal, which it's believed he could be, there is an argument that makes sense for the Phillies to be in on him. He would fit into the current mode of team thinking, which is to limit long-term contracts and bring aboard veteran players on short deals.
Santana is just 31 and has been durable, if unspectacular. He would probably cost the team about $14-15 million per season, which would put them well over the luxury tax in 2014.
But the tax isn't the prime concern. The question the Phillies would have to ask themselves is, would they want to give up their second round pick in order to get him? Their first round pick is protected, but given the rebuilding that is ahead, and the odds the team will make the playoffs this year, does it even merit giving up a second rounder?
Of course, if the Phils were to sign him to a two-year deal, he could be a valuable trade chip at the deadline, should the Phils be out of contention. However, it's unlikely Santana would take a two-year deal, as he is trying to secure a one-year deal so he can try for another big payday next off-season.
If Hamels is healthy, a Lee-Hamels-Burnett-Santana-Kendrick rotation would be pretty sweet. It all depends on what Santana wants, and what other teams are willing to give him.
The Phillies have not inquired about Ervin Santana, a team source said, refuting an earlier report.— Matt Gelb (@magelb) March 7, 2014
So, there's that, too.
Ichiro Suzuki does not have a no-trade clause, and he appears to be the odd man out in the NYY outfield. The Phillies need outfield help.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 9, 2014
Oh good. More Ichiro rumors.
Yes, the Phillies need help in the outfield. Watching a full game of Tony Gwynn Jr. makes that all too clear. But is Ichiro the answer? Unless the Yankees are willing to trade him for a case of warm Bass Ale that I have in my garage, it doesn't make any sense for the Phils to give up anything to get him.
I mean, I know that .297 on-base percentage from last year is real enticing, and his declining speed in the outfield is a must-have. Let's get Cashman on the phone, y'all.
Now, it's onto Week 3. Everybody just put your heads down and close your eyes. We'll get through this together.