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Phillies Top Five pitching concerns as pitchers and catchers report

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The Philadelphia Phillies  have now had two consecutive shortened off seasons. And while the previous season ended better than last, they're coming back to do it all over again. This time, they have some unfinished business. And it begins today with the arrival of pitchers and catchers. Roy Halladay, the Phillies biggest Christmas present, is already there. Rumor has it that Cole Hamels is there as well. The rest of the bunch should be there by now.

There will be plenty of time to break this entire team down in the next few weeks. Until then, we're going to start with the five most concerning issues that await the Phillies pitching staff in 2010.

5. Does Jamie Moyer have anything left? Jamie Moyer wants to dig up another pitcher's mound. Photo:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/mariners/2008332952_base31.html

Yes, we've seen him do it time and time again. Problem is, father time catches up with everybody. Moyer, now 47, had surgery on his groin which he aggravated at the tail end of 2009 and suffered an infection after surgery. Moreover, he has also had cartilage removed from his knee several weeks ago. Was it really wise giving Moyer a two-year deal at age 46? Probably not. Hindsight is always 20/20, but It is even more magnified when you think where that extra money could have gone (Mr. Lee?). However, Moyer has shown that he can elevate his game with something to prove (Game Three of the 2008 World Series, his bullpen stint after his demotion from the rotation last year). At best, let's hope he can either be that fifth starter the Phillies so desperately need, or that he calls it a career. Otherwise, you will see Kyle Kendrick in the fold again. A World Series favorite like the Phillies need more certainty out of a fifth starter. And no, I don't want the Phillies to sign Pedro Martinez  in July so we can all painfully watch his 86 miles per hour fastball in the World Series again............

4. Who will take the place of Chan Ho Park and solidify that uneven bullpen?

Brett Myers is gone. So is Tyler Walker and Clay Condrey. Eyre retired. Chad Durbin's ERA jumped to 4.39 last year. Ryan Madson was shaky at times (especially when he was called on to close for Brad Lidge). The question is: how did the Phillies manage to get to the sixth game of the World Series last year with a bullpen more schizophrenic than the weather on the East Coast? I still can't answer this. And to add insult to injury, Chan Ho Park, the team's best bullpen pitcher, is not returning to the fold. Park thinks he can still start (as evidenced by his 7.29 ERA as a starter......), so much to the point where he wants to possibly sacrifice getting a World Series ring in order to do so. I'm sure money had something to do with his departure as well. In saying that, Park's 2.52 ERA will be missed. Newcomer Danys Baez  with his 4.02 ERA for the Orioles is not all that encouraging. Neither is Jose Contreras  and his combined 4.92 ERA with the White Sox and Rockies last year. Hopefully,this will be the year Scott Mathieson can return to the Major Leagues, throw his hat into the ring, and compete for a spot in the pen.

3. Will J.C. Romero rebound from 2009?  Will J.C. Romero return to top form? Photo: Jamie Moyer wants to dig up another pitcher's mound. Photo:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/mariners/2008332952_base31.html

Romero's 2009 season appeared doomed from the start. From his 50-game suspension, his altercation with a fan in Tampa Bay, stints on the DL, and his season ending elbow surgery last October, one of the World Series heroes of 2008 never really found his rhythm last year. With his suspension now in the past, Romero is trying to be ready for Opening Day. He is a fierce competitor who is in the last year of a three year deal, which gives him even more of an incentive to return to action. With the retirement of Scott Eyre, Romero's role in 2010 for this team is huge. If the Phils' three headed monster of Romero, Ryan Madson, and Brad Lidge can recapture their magic from two years ago, things will be much easier for Charlie Manuel, and a lot harder for the rest of the National League. If Romero struggles in his return, a World Series contender like the Phils should not have unproven rookies like Antonio Bastardo or Sergio Escalona as your main lefties in the pen. At this time, relying on Mike Zagurski after a three year absence from the majors and Tommy John surgery isn't very realistic. Several of the above mentioned could make the team out of Spring Training, but more experience is needed.

2. Brad Lidge

We've been through this all year last year. You know the numbers. To make a long story short, it turns out Lidge actually did have knee and elbow problems last year. The question everyone seems to be dodging is how long can Lidge's knee take this pounding? It has been going on for years now, and each time back doesn't make recovery any easier.  A season like 2008 for Lidge will probably never happen again. However, despite Lidge's up and down 2009 season, the Phillies still almost repeated. If he can be somewhere in the middle, the ninth inning will not be an adventure this year. Everyone is rooting for Lidge, he just needs to make it happen. If he doesn't, Ruben Amaro  HAS to deal for a closer at the deadline as opposed to possibly another front line pitcher. Which brings us to our number one concern...........

1. Cole Hamels  2008 must seem so long ago for Cole Hamels. Photo: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs/delcotimes/ryanl/uploaded_images/Colbert-773098.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www3.allaroundphilly.com

It's kind of ironic that our top two pitching concerns for the Phillies this year are two of the main reasons this team won a World Series in 2008. Their sub-par 2009 campaigns could very well be reasons why the team fell to the Yankees in November. How Andy Pettitte beat Hamels on his third best pitch to tie Game Three  with a base hit last Halloween will haunt Phillies fans for a very long time. Truth be told, Hamels didn't look like he knew where he was half the time in the 2009 playoffs or throughout the season for that matter. Only in Philadlephia could a player have an amazing 2008 postseason and completely fall apart the next year like Hamels. Sadly, some good will has been lost between Hamels and the Philly fans.That's what happens when you start believing your own press and slack off the following year when you take home every postseason hardware imaginable. It will take an absolutely stellar season on his behalf in order to redeem himself. Hopefully, the addition of Halladay and his work ethic will rub off on Hamels. If so, those two could be a dangerous 1-2 punch. I won't go as far as to say the best in the game, but pretty close. If Hamels gets back to form, maybe Amaro can go out and get another Cliff Lee  at the deadline. Then, things will REALLY get interesting. If Hamels can't deliver, Amaro has no choice but to acquire another front line starter, and his days in Philadelphia may end sooner than later.

Like many teams there are some question marks for the Phillies, and their mission begins today.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com  

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