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Are there new concerns for the Phillies as Spring Training gets underway?

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Cliff Lee’s Grapefruit League debut Tuesday against the Tigers was “rusty.” Lee, who walked a total of only 18 batters in 2010, had some early control issues. It’s only his first outing, so let’s hope Lee’s “mild strain” he suffered during the off-season has not continued to affect affect him.
 
Put aside Lee’s start as we observe other recent issues that may bring some pretty big questions marks to the forefront concerning our beloved Fightins.
 
Chase UtleyChase Utley needs to get healthy again for the Phillies to make another World Series run.

As we discussed the other day, Utley’s knee could be a cause for concern. We’ll just sum things up again very quickly: Your All-Star second baseman probably isn’t going to take infield practice for a few weeks, he’s injury prone, and it’s just the start of spring training.

As of now, the Phillies’ are ruling out surgery, which is said to have a recovery time of 3-4 months.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Michael Young is probably still peeved at Texas for continuing to make him impersonate Bert Campaneris. If Utley's injury turns out to be more serious than the Phillies thought, do you swap Joe Blanton for Young if Utley’s injury becomes worse than expected? (Texas needs pitching, and the Phils would get a right-handed bat) Probably not because Adrian Beltre just went down with a calf injury, and Vladimir Guerrero left for greener pastures (?) to Baltimore (Trust me: the only thing greener about that decision was the money).

This might have the potential for a late-season move depending on how things go for both teams on the injury front. I know we're completely jumping the gun here, but can anybody envision Utley in right field? Not exactly sold on that. 


Brad LidgeBrad Lidge needs to deliver in what might be his final season as a Phillie. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.

For the first time in several years, Lidge “appeared” to be healthy as he arrived at camp. However, a report on Daily News Live Tuesday claimed that Lidge was clocked at only 86mph on the radar gun recently.

Yikes. It’s no secret that Lidge’s fastball has tailed off a bit since the championship season of 2008, but he was averaging 92-94 last season.

Who knows? Maybe the radar gun was off. Maybe he doesn’t wanna go full bore this early. You would think having an off-season to properly train allowed him to do things he hasn’t been able to do in quite some time.

Again. It’s only March 1st, but let’s not kid ourselves: the Phillies NEED Lidge in 2011. Ryan Madson as your closer is too shaky of an option.


Domonic Brown

If Brown was playing a video game of himself in spring training, he couldn’t hit the restart button fast enough. So far this spring, he is 0 for 12 with eight strikeouts. This is a continuing pattern for Brown, who has underperformed at almost every level which he has played since last July.

Brown seems to have a different batting stance at every plate appearance. Which probably means he’s trying to make adjustments, or is trying to hard to adjust. Brown is one of baseball’s highest valued prospects, and the Phillies have great expectations for him. With Ben Francisco coming on strong in the early going, don’t be surprised if the team sends Brown back to Triple-A  for some more minor league seasoning if his performance doesn’t improve.


Dannys Baez

So let me get this straight: The Phillies let Chad Durbin walk, and kept this guy? Really? NOBODY liked this signing last year, and nobody likes it now.  Baez surrendered five earned runs and couldn’t even get out of a B game this weekend. Durbin had a rough 2010 postseason, but you could always count on him for three (or more) innings of patchwork relief. Durbin hasn’t been as effective as he was in 2008, but I’ll take a left-handed Durbin over Baez any day of the week.

And I don’t want to hear about his salary. The Phillies’ payroll is obviously higher now, but two years ago they cut Geoff Jenkins and paid him $12 million to stay home.

Let’s hope former number one overall draft pick Matt Anderson continues his early spring sucess,  and the Phillies can show Baez the door.

Wrapup:

If any of the five starters were to suffer an injury, chances are the Phils would be able to get by for an extended period of time. As far as the regular lineup or the bullpen? Not so much. Suitable replacements for the short or long term would most likely be determined down the line depending on the severity of these issues (case in point: Utley’s knee).

Hey, it could be worse. You COULD be a Cardinals fan. Rumor has it that Chris Carpenter might want out. Not exactly what you want to hear as a Cardinals fan after your number one is shelved for the year.   

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Joe Vallee is a lifelong Phillies fan and former Phillies batboy. Joe has claimed to have seen about 98% of every Phillies game since the early 1980's.
 

Contact Joe at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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