It’s Opening Day!!!

The Phillies Starting Staff has high expectations for 2011.

Opening Day is upon us. Hopefully the ominous weather is not a foreshadowing of things to come. This 2011 season is the Phils third attempt at winning another world series and the addition of Cliff Lee to an already stellar staff has made the team the odds on favorites to get it done.

The Sixers sent jerseys to the Phils Starting Five.

As much as there has been excitement about that rotation, there has been worries about the lineup. Chase Utley is dealing with tendonitis in his right knee that hindered him from competing at all in Spring Training. Utley and the Phils have shied away from surgery thus far and indications are that Utley may be able to get on the field before the break simply by waiting it out. He took ground balls at Citizens Bank Park the other day for the first time since the injury.

There are also issues as to who will protect Ryan Howard. With Jayson Werth gone, there is no bona fide right-handed hitter to back up Howard in the 5 hole and many experts are referring to the Phillies lineup without Utley and Werth as thin. The team will lean on Ben Francisco who had a very stellar spring and John Mayberry who did the same, to fill in for Werth in the lineup and in right field. Charlie Manuel made it clear that Francisco is going to get a good shot at nailing down the starting job outright. The major issues in the lineup are who will hit 1, 3, and 5. It seems like 1 and 3 will be some combination of Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. 5 right now will probably be Raul Ibanez against right handers and maybe Francisco against left. Manuel made it clear that there will certainly be some flip-flopping in the lineup until Utley returns. It seems like Wilson Valdez will get a shot at holding down second base until Utley is ready.

Chase Utley's return is still unknown.

The pitching issues for the Phillies really only exists in the Bullpen. Brad Lidge is starting another season off on the DL. According to Manuel, Jose Contreras is going to be the closer right now. Many assumed that would be Madson’s job outright but it seems like Manuel may not want to mess with his psyche too much and may just want to keep him in his setup role until he becomes a closer for good.

The Phillies will be starting 2011 without their closer.

So there is the team in a nutshell. Hopefully the ominous weather outside will not foreshadow the rest of the Phillies 2011 because this season is World Series or bust. The signing of Cliff Lee means the Phils are all in.

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