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5 Things to Look For in Spring Training 2013

spring training 2013

As wind chills hit single digits and snow flurries abound in Philadelphia, the Phillies have once again made the trek to sunny Clearwater, Florida for spring training. Charlie Manuel comes into his eighth season as the Phils’ skipper with an uncertain future. Manuel’s current contract expires after 2013 and the team has made no attempts to extend that as of yet. The coach’s squad is coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign filled with injuries and inconsistency, ultimately resulting in a 3rd place NL East finish and an 81-81 record. With a clean bill of health going in and a handful of new faces to meet, here’s a list of things to keep your eye on in Clearwater:

1. How will the rotation shake out?

Roy Halladay has started 10 consecutive regular season openers, but that figures to change this season. The good doctor was one of the many walking wounded last season, finishing 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA, his highest since 2004 in Toronto.

Cole Hamels went 17-6 for the Fightins’ last season, enough to earn him a seven year, $153 million contract extension. Fellow southpaw Cliff Lee was the victim of both poor run support & inconsistentcy last season; he did not win his first game until July. All these factors point to Hamels on the mound on opening day.

The home grown product, still well in his prime and not going anywhere. With the departure of Vance Worley via trade, the back of the rotation becomes a question mark. Pencil in Kyle Kendrik as the number four starter, but number five is up for grabs. Tyler Cloyd, Rodrigo Lopez and John Lannan are some names to keep an eye on here. Prediction: Hamels, Halladay, Lee, Kendrik, Lannan.

2. Musical Outfielders

Take a look at the names patrolling the alley ways at Brighthouse Field and it might seem strange. No Shane Victorino, No Hunter Pence, no Greg Luzinski (not on the field at least). This year’s crew is very different and uncertain. This does not mean there’s no talent here.

General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. sent promising pitcher Trevor May and Worley to Minnesota this off-season for center fielder Ben Revere. Revere is a speedster who swiped 40 bases last season and hit .294. His on-base percentage needs work, but the kid brings youth to a team in dire need of it. He played all three outfield positions last season and finished with a perfect fielding percentage.

The corner spots are a bit of a concern. Everyone knows what Darin Ruf did last season in Reading before getting the call to the bigs last September. He clubbed 38 home runs, enough to break Ryan Howard’s single season AA record. Ruf has pop, but can he adjust to the outfield after spending most of his baseball life in the infield? Will newcomer Delmon Young, fresh off an ALCS MVP in Detroit in which he hit .353, be able to make transition to everyday fielding? Keep in mind that Young hasn’t played more than 40 games in the field the last two seasons. A scary thought for a team with limited options in right field.

And then there are John Mayberry, Jr. and Domonic Brown. Both promising youngsters at one time who showed flashes. But the time is now, and these two have yet to show if they can produce on a regular basis. Left field could be Ruf’s to lose, but either Mayberry or Brown could nab more at-bats with more consistent play. Expect to see all five of these names in Philadelphia come April.

3. The Pen

Another Amaro acquisition this winter came in the person of Mike Adams, a 6’5″ flame throwing free agent reliever. Adams made a name for himself in San Diego as one of the league’s premiere setup men. The righty will sure up the eighth inning for the Phils and serve as the bridge to closer Jonanthan Papelbon. Papelbon saved 38 games for the team in 2012. Veteran righty and one time Phillie Chad Durbin returns in 2013 to add help in the middle innings and experience in the postseason.

One of the other three spots in the pen belongs to lefty Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo went into 2012 as the set up man, but did not finsh that way. With Adams in that spot, Bastardo can focus more on sixth and seventh innings where the pressure isn’t as great.

Right handed reliever Mike Stutes will contend for a spot in the pen, following an injury shortened season. Left hander Jeremy Horst will also battle for a job as a situational lefty with Raul Valdes and Jake Diekman. All three saw time in the bigs last season. Prediction: Papelbon, Adams, Bastardo, Durbin, Horst, Stutes.

4. How Will the Bench Round Out?

With the addition of third baseman Michael Young, the Phillies infield is one of the oldest in baseball. Young, Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins all find themselves north of age 30. This means the days of playing all 162 games are over. 120-130 is more likely and necessary for a team looking to avoid injuries. To do this the team needs depth, and that they have.

Freddy Galvis wowed the fans last season with his glove. He spend time last season at second base, third, and at shortstop. His versatility is a shot in the arm for the team as they look to keep their starting infield healthy. Galvis himself is coming off a bone fracture in his back which ended his season, as well as a positive test for a banned substance. He is needed, but will also have something to prove.

Kevin Frandsen saw extended time at third base toward the end of last season and filled in quite well, finishing with a .338 BA in 55 games. Erik Kratz should get the nod as your starting catcher while Carlos Ruiz serves a 25 game suspension for an illegal substance. Mayberry and Brown will be in the mix as mentioned, along with Laynce Nix who missed time on and off last season with injuries. He has some power, but that’s about it. Prediction: Kratz, Galvis, Frandsen, Mayberry, Brown and Nix.

5. Can This Team Stay Healthy?

Murphy’s Law states it simply: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Everything went wrong for the Phillies in 2012.

Utley and Howard did not see action until well into June. Halladay also missed significant time due to injury. Ruiz and Galvis both were lost for the season by midseason. Young gun Mike Stutes was also hurt and lost for the year.

Utley has not played a spring training game the last two years. That will change this season, but will his knees hold up? Is Ryan Howard finally 100% after a devastating achilles injury that literally ended the 2011 season? Will Delmon Young’s body be able to withstand the pounding of everyday fielding? Can Michael Young remain healthy at 36 years of age at the hot corner? And will Roy Halladay allow himself to pitch 6-7 innings and not try and go the distance every night?

Prediction: Maybe

All stats courtesy of www.baseball-reference.com

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