Eagles vs Phillies. Eagles Acquire Asomugha and Phillies nab Pence

Nnamdi Asomugha signed a 5 year $60 million deal with the Eagles.

Tonight the biggest matchup in Philly has not been between the Phillies and an out-of-town opponent. It has been between the Eagles and the Phillies. Both franchises have acquired players that will put the teams in positions to perhaps do some big things in the immediate future.

This afternoon, Twitter, Facebook and pretty much every smart phone in the tri state area, exploded with the news that the Eagles somehow maneuvered themselves into the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, that seemed monopolized by the Cowboys and Jets, and were able to sign the most coveted free agent to a 5 year $60 million dollar deal with $25 million guaranteed. Asomugha signing with the Eagles is a clear-cut sign that the franchise feels ready to compete right now and are going all in on winning a Superbowl this year. Asomugha puts them into a position where they can either boast the best trio of corner backs in the league with Asomugha, Samuel and Cromartie or the team can look to trade Samuel to acquire another piece that they need perhaps at linebacker.

Hunter Pence is coming to Philadelphia in a 4 for 1 deal.

While news was being made in Bethlehem at a press conference with Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman, which was conspicuously scheduled at the same time as the start of the Phillies game, Phillies’ GM, Ruben Amaro Jr, was planning his next move. As the Phillies were racking up runs left and right against Pittsburgh news broke that Hunter Pence was acquired by the Phillies for Singleton, Cosart and two players to be named. The Phillies are acquiring the right handed bat that many think they so desperately need to balance the lineup and to position them to compete with the impressive pitching staff in San Francisco. The move shows the aggressive nature of Ruben Amaro Jr. who even with the best record in the league, knows that he cannot allow a minor hole in the lineup to hold this team up from winning a World Series. The crafty Amaro was able to pull off the deal without dealing away either Vance Worley or Domonic Brown and Pence was attractive due to the fact that they control him beyond this season. If there were any doubts about whether or not this was a World Series team before this move, there should be no doubts now.

Ruben Amaro Jr has gotten Charlie Manuel the right-handed bat he wanted.

These two major moves on the same day is a testament to the promising era of Philly sports we are currently in. Realistically, the city has three teams within reach of a championship run. The Phillies are there. With this acquisition, it is championship or bust for the Phillies. Nothing short will do. The Eagles are all of a sudden one of the deepest and most athletic teams in the NFC and they are in an interesting position to continue adding to this team. The Flyers have undergone major changes but judging by the way last season ended, they were warranted and it seems like they still view themselves as viable contenders. The only team without a title in their sights is the Sixers but that is not to say that they are not headed in the right direction because they certainly are. Smile Philly. A city that was once seen as a destination that no player wanted to play for, is now becoming a premiere destination for many sports. Look at the players recently acquired the last few years for Philly teams; Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Pronger, Danny Briere, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Asante Samuel. The bottom line is that all of a sudden, Philly is an attractive destination and it will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

Head Coach Andy Reid and Eagles GM Howie Roseman kept negotiations with Asomugha quiet until the deal was announced.

Tonight was the battle of the GM’s in Philly and these moves were two aggressive moves made by two aggressive franchises.

Beltran, Melky, or Pence?- Trading Season Has Begun

This face says it all when asking about who the Phils will get by July 31st.

    July 31st, the non-waiver trading deadline, is approaching fast and the Phillies are looking to land a stud outfielder, a significant relief pitcher, or maybe both. The question is, who will they get, and what will they give up? As history has shown, they will come up big, but not at the expense of making us all cringe.

   Last season, the Phillies traded for Astro’s ace Roy Oswalt. He was 6-12, with a 3.42 ERA, but he had been one of the leagues elite right-handed pitchers for a decade-plus. He proved that when he put on Phillies pinstripes, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA the rest of the way. His excellence, matched up with the excellence of an ace in Roy Halladay and a revamped Cole Hamels, lead to a third-consecutive NLCS trip. We know how that ended.
   However, at the time of the trade, fans were left with a bad taste in their mouths. It had been reported that J.A. Happ, a young, talented lefty, was sent to Houston in exchange for Oswalt. At the time of that move, Happ was one year removed from a 12-4, sub-3 ERA season. He was young; he was good; he was traded.
   This season, the Phillies find themselves in a similar situation; looking to trade their youth for the final piece of a World Championship puzzle. Right-hander Vance Worley may be the next young stud to be traded, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. Domonic Brown, a 23-year old outfielder, has had his name mentioned in trade talks for Mets star Carlos Beltran. In nearly every trade rumor involving the Phillies landing a power right-handed bat or stud reliever, Phillies prospect Johnathan Singleton’s name has come up. But, will the Phillies actually give up another highly regarded youngster? They are gonna have to, if indeed they get what they want.
   Number-one on their list is to deliver further crushing disappointment to the Mets by snatching star-outfeilder Carlos Beltran from them. Beltran is by far the best “impact player” available. This year, the switch-hitter is batting .293 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs. He also leads the league with 30 doubles. What makes him an attractive option is not only the fact that he is a great in the playoffs, sporting a career .366 average with 11 homers, but the Mets are offering to pay the bill on his $18.5 millon contract. However, the Phillies should be cautious. He is still coming off an injury, which limited his playing time in 2010. He is also a free-agent after this season, and may not re-sign. Even more alarming, Beltran is batting .232 against lefties; a problem the Phillies need help with (they are batting .239 against LHP this season). Considering this, do you take a chance getting rid of the future for 2 months of Beltran?
   A better option might be Astro’s outfielder Hunter Pence. Pence, 28, provides the Phillies with a right-handed power bat that they control through 2012. This season, he is batting .316 with 11 homers and 61 RBI’s. He is batting .275 against lefties, which will greatly help the Phillies. However, such production won’t come without a cost. Astro’s general manager Ed Wade wants a good package of prospects, and rightfully so; he is their franchise player. The Phillies reportedly would be okay parting ways with right-hander Vance Worley. Are you cringing yet?
   Like Happ, Worley is a young Phillies pitcher who has a lot of promise. He is 23-years old, and is 6-1 with a 2.02 ERA this season. However, he is young and the league has not yet figured him out. Maybe its best to trade him before they do. They figured Happ out, and he is 4-11 with a 5.88 ERA. On the other hand, Worley might be THIS good. Even more importantly, going into next season, the Phillies only have 3 starters for sure. Oswalt may retire, and Blanton is still injured. Worley would add a lot of insurance next season. So, is Pence worth it?
   On the cheap, yet productive end, there is always Royals’ outfielder Melky Cabrera. The 26-year old former Yankee and Brave is batting .294 with 14 homers and 54 RBI’s. He also has 14 stolen bases. To acquire Cabrera, the Phillies would likely have to part way with a couple of players, but nothing along the lines of acquiring Beltran or Pence; trades that might require trading Brown, Worley, and/or Singleton. Plus, he may be easier for the Phillies to sign. On the other hand, he is having his best season; historically, Melky isn’t this good at all.
   Of course, they could acquire other players than those listed above. They could always decide they are content with their offense, and trade for Padres’ closer Heath Bell, or set-up man Mike Adams. They could even steal away outfielder Ryan Ludwick in one of those trades. Matt Kemp anyone? Likely, no; impossible, nothing is.
   So, who will be in the newest Phillie?

Phour Phils Headed to 2011 MLB All Star Game: Is That Enough?

Three of the Phils five starters to begin the season will represent the Phillies on the NL All Star team.

The 2011 MLB All Star teams were announced today and the Philadelphia Phillies have four players representing the leagues best team. Placido Polanco, the Phillies starter at third base will assume the same role for the NL team. Polanco is batting .280 with 39 rbi’s and 4 homeruns. He also boasts a 1.000 field percentage. Polanco started off the season incredibly hot and led the Phillies through the first month of the season. Some say that he is benefiting from significant time missed by both David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman but Polanco’s contribution to the leagues best team cannot be taken lightly.

Polanco was the only position player on the Phils to make the All Star team but the team was certainly well represented when it comes to hurlers. The big three of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will all represent the Phillies starting staff in Arizona.

Placido Polanco will start at 3rd for the NL team.

Roy Halladay has been stellar once again this season posting an 11-3 record with a 2.44 ERA, 131 strikeouts and 6 complete games in 18 starts. That basically means that he averages a complete game 1 in every 3 times he takes the mound.

Cliff Lee has come on strong lately. He has posted three consecutive complete game shutouts in his last three starts and entered today’s game with a career best 32 consecutive scoreless innings. Lee struggled for a stretch this season but overall he has proved why the Phils brought him back this season. He is 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA with 119 strikeouts and 4 complete games, three of which were in a row.

The final All Star for the Phils is former World Series MVP, Cole Hamels. Many forecasted coming into the season that this would be Cole Hamels’ best season with the Phillies and so far he is proving that even though the hype revolved around the other pitchers that the Phils acquired, he is also a legitimate star and Cy Young candidate in his own right. Cole Hamels is 9-4 with a 2.41 ERA with 110 strikeouts and a complete game.

Shane Victorino will have a chance to be voted onto the All Star team by the fans.

All of these pitchers proved undoubtedly that they deserve to be All Stars but did any other Phillies prove the same even though they were left off the roster? Shane Victorino is once again apart of the MLB’s final vote and has a chance to be voted onto the All Star teams by the fans, something that he was successful in doing in 2008. Victorino is hitting .299 with 9 homeruns, 34 rbi’s, 12 doubles, 9 triples, and 13 stolen bases. Victorino is up against SP Ian Kennedy of Arizona, OF Matt Morse of Washington, 1B Todd Helton of Colorado and OF Andre Ethier of Los Angeles.

Also left off of this year’s team was Phillies 1B Ryan Howard. Many have noted that the NL is becoming deeper at 1B but you cannot deny that Ryan Howard is one of the best hitters in the NL still. He is hitting .253 in a season where he lost his main protection behind him in Jayson Werth and in front of him for most of the season in Chase Utley. The lose of those two bats certainly weakened the type of pitches that Howard was seeing. Despite the drop in quality pitches he has still hit 17 homers and is second in the league in RBI’s with 67.

The All Star game is about having situational players on the roster. Are their players with better averages and who strike out less than Howard? Yes. But those players do not prosper in All Star games. Hitting singles and playing small ball does not win All Star games because the opposing pitching is too stellar. You need players on the roster with pop who can change the game with one at bat. Howard should be on the team for that reason as should Mark Teixera in the AL. Ryan Howard has also proved that he is taking his defense seriously posting a .996 fielding percentage. Ryan Howard certainly has shortcomings in his game. He is not perfect. But the Phillies, the best team in Major League Baseball, would not be where they are without his 17 homeruns and 67 rbi’s especially considering the struggles throughout the rest of the lineup. The MLB put in the DH for a reason for both All Star teams and that was for sluggers, homerun hitters, and rbi producers to make the team.

Ryan Howard was left off the NL All Star this season.

I do not agree with the MLB’s view of the role of the All Star Game. It should not count for anything. It should not include representatives from every team. It should only be about fun and that is it. But if you are going to make it mean something, the best players have to be there. Amongst 1st basemen in the NL Howard is 2nd in AB’s, 2nd in HR’s, 2nd in rbi’s, 4th in runs scored, 6th in hits, 4th in walks, and 3rd in fielding percentage. Say what you will about Ryan Howard, but that is still a relevant and very productive first basemen considering the fact that he faces multiple defensive shifts every night and gets pitched around more than any player in the league.

So Congratulations to Polanco, Halladay, Hamels, and Lee on their All Star selections and in the coming week we will se if any other Phillies get tabbed to make the trip to Arizona.

MLB Considering Realignment. Good or Bad for Baseball?

I have always been very outspoken about my disdain for a lot of the policies of Major League Baseball. It is not the sport itself that I do not like because I love baseball with a passion. However, when you step back and look at some of the particular nuances of Major League Baseball, sometimes you cannot help but scratch your head.

For example, why does the All Star game determine home field advantage in the World Series? This is the most backwards rule I’ve ever seen. How can you sell to the fan base that even if their team gets the best record during the regular season, they may still be at a disadvantage in the World Series on the grounds that the league they are in loss the All Star Game. You cannot base home field in the World Series on a game in which half the players’ teams do not even have a shot at the World Series anyway. I mean think about it. Are the required Pirates and Mariners All Star representatives thinking to themselves “we better play pretty hard out here today so that the Phillies or Red Sox can get their home field advantage in October?” That is not happening and it is not fair. It makes no sense. You make a rule that every team has to be represented which means that you cannot possibly make the best team because a better player is going to be left out for a guy who is only there because he is the best of the worst on his horrible team and then you tell the teams to go win. That is an extremely weird position to put a manager in.

The Astros may be jumping to the AL in 2012.

Or how about the classic debate of the DH. Why do 14 teams get to play with a guy who subs in for the pitcher at the plate and does not have to play a lick in the field while 16 other teams have to suffer through at bats from the pitcher? Simple and plan, if you play in the field you should have to bat and if you come off the bench you should have to be subbed in. However, if the league is going to insist on having a DH, at least give every team that advantage.

Then of course there are the little things like why do the parks vary so much in terms of size and why do the coaches wear uniforms. Are they planning on subbing themselves in at some point if they run out of players? And do not even get me started on Inter-league play.

Baseball is quirky and perhaps that quirkiness is what makes it America’s pastime but baseball could be taking a step to get somewhat less peculiar.

The league is discussing a plan to change the 16-14 format and go with 15 teams in both the NL and the AL. That would involve a National League team heading over to the other side and early indications are that if the plan goes into effect, the Houston Astros could be the team on the move. This would take one team from the 6 team NL Central and foster an obvious rivalry between the Astros and the Texas Rangers.

Under the plan the leagues would no longer be divided into divisions. No more Phillies vs. Braves NL East showdowns or Yankees vs. Red Sox AL East races in September. There would be two leagues and the top 3 teams from each will make the playoffs while the 4th and 5th place teams square off as wild cards for the 4th and final spot. The plan could go into effect in 2012.

There may be no more Phillies Braves NL East matchups under the current plan.

Under the plan, there would be many more inter-league games. Perhaps everyday. This would mean that there would be more occurrences of teams having to play a brand of baseball that they are not used to. This may make you ask then why not make the rules the same for both leagues if they will have to play so often. Perhaps the league will but that does not seem to be their intention at this point.

So the oddest professional sports league in America is seemingly trying to take a step toward normalcy but in all honesty it all sounds confusing and complicated in its own ways. Will evening out the leagues be a good thing. Yes, but the league has to make sure that the players, owners and fans are all on board with the parameters that will come with such a realignment.

The Cincinnati Reds are Scheduled for a Follow Up Visit with the Doc

Roy Halladay during his No Hitter against the Reds in the 2010 NLDS.

It was game 1 of the 2010 NLDS match up between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds. The game marked the first postseason game for that year’s Cy Young winner, Roy Halladay. It was also his first postseason appearance with his new team who won a world series two years before and who reached the world series the year prior. The atmosphere was incredibly intense for just the first game of the playoffs, but because Roy Halladay was on the hill, it meant so much more.

On that October evening at Citizens Bank Park, the Doctor was in. The Reds only base runner came on a 5th inning walk. Halladay was as tuned in as he had been all season long. The Reds, who had reached the postseason on their late season hitting prowess ran into a wall that evening. Halladay threw what became the 2nd no-hitter in postseason history. He also became the 5th pitcher all time to throw 2 no hitters in a season (last was Nolan Ryan in 1973) and became the first pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter in the regular season and the playoffs in the same year.

When asked about the no no afterwards, Catcher Carlos Ruiz, who caught both of Halladay’s no-hitters, said that Doc was on during the bullpen session prior to the game and had a feeling something special would happen. Doc will try to duplicate that something special tonight.

Travis Wood will take the mound against the Phillies tonight. He is 3-3 with a 5.17 era this season.

Tonight the Red’s will seek to return the favor at CBP coming off of a 6-3 win last night in which the Reds got to Phillies Closer Ryan Madson for 3 9th inning runs. They will send Travis Wood to the mound. Wood is 3-3 with a 5.17 era this season.

Charlie Manuel on Dominic Brown Call Up via CSNPhilly

http://www.csnphilly.com/common/thePlatform/web/swf/flvPlayer.swf

Breaking News…Brown Called Up

Dominic Brown has been stellar in Triple A this season batting .341 with 10 RBI's and 2 HR's in 11 games played.

According to several reports and tweets, Dominic Brown has been called up by the Phillies today to replace Shane Victorino who will head to the DL with a strained hamstring. Amaro has said recently that when the Phillies call up Brown they want it to be for good so chances are that if Brown performs he will not be sent back down. Here is the breaking story from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhily.com. http://www.csnphilly.com/05/20/11/Phillies-call-up-Brown-place-Victorino-o/news_phillies.html?blockID=526258&feedID=704

Oops, There Goes Another Injury!

First off as a journalist, I am trained to give credit where credit is due so I must say that the title, which is a play on the lyrics from the song “High Hopes”, came from my friend Jim Dailey, so Jim, thanks for the title. We always enjoy contributions from the readers here at Brotherly Love Sports.

Joe Blanton appears to be headed for the DL. He is 1-2 with a 5.50 ERA in 6 starts.

Now to business. The injury bug has once again taken a bite out of the Phillies. “The 5th Ace”, Joe Blanton, was scheduled to start last night but was scratched during his pregame warm up due to soreness in the elbow that has been plaguing him over recent weeks. Blanton was replaced by Phillies reliever Kyle Kendrick who was anything but sharp last night, giving up 2 of Jason Giambi’s career high, 3 homeruns. There was speculation that perhaps the Phillies brought Blanton back too soon and some believed that it was because the Phillies wanted to showcase him to potential suitors in the event that they needed to deal him. In any case, the team might have done themselves a huge disservice by bringing Blanton back too soon, which may kill any chance of a team being interested.

Blanton so far has not been incredibly stellar at all this season which has prompted a clamoring from the fan base for Phillies prospect righty, Vance Worley, to get a shot at Joe Blanton’s 5th spot. The fan base may see another J.A. Happ type of player who can come up and be a stellar piece to the back of the staff that opposing teams are not familiar with. The Phillies recently sent Worley back down to Triple A after he made some stellar starts and bullpen appearances in the absence of Roy Oswalt. If the Phillies, like expected, put Blanton on the DL, Worley may get a chance to take the 5th spot in the rotation during that time and could certainly pitch his way into keeping it. The issue is that the Phillies only view Blanton as a starter. They do not see his stuff as being bullpen material and thus if he loses his spot he is $7 million of dead weight. The team also sees Worley as a key piece to their future being that there is a chance that Oswalt could leave after this season and therefore they do not want Worley to lose his starters mentality by pitching out of the bullpen this year. They would rather have him in Triple A starting which is evident by the fact that Scott Mathieson is in the majors while Worley isn’t even though Worley is clearly better right now.

Vance Worley seems like the likely top candidate to replace Blanton in the rotation. Worley is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA for the Phillies over 2 starts and 4 appearances.

The injury bug went back for seconds as it appears that Shane Victorino will also need a trip to the DL. Victorino had an MRI yesterday which revealed a Grade 1 to Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring. Victorino appeared in Wednesday’s game to bunt and Manager Charlie Manuel at the time did not realize how hurt Victorino was.

Shane Victorino seems poised for the DL. Victorino was second on the team out of the regulars with a .284 BA.

Dominic Brown has been stellar in Triple A this year batting .341 with 10 RBI's and 2 HR's in 11 games played for the Iron Pigs.

At first it appeared to be a few days off type injury but now it appears to be a little more. Some have taken this news to mean that highly touted prospect Dominic Brown, who got injured in Spring Training while Brotherly Love Sports was on location in Florida, would get called up. However, that does not seem to be the case. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear that he wants to

Chase Utley has been making rehab starts in Florida with the Clearwater Threshers and appears close to making his return.

call Brown up when the organization feels that it will certainly be for good. They do not want him to be a Phillie on a temporary basis. This does draw into question what position player will get called up if not Brown. Perhaps, the team plans on calling up Chase Utley who has played well in Clearwater. Some say that he looks in very good shape and playing condition. He has hit the ball well and at this point, the hold up to get him on the Phillies is not really clear. When the team is struggling to score runs so much, it would seemingly be a no brainer to call up two players in Utley and Brown who are known for their hitting prowess. However, the Phillies are remaining patient. In Brown’s case that approach may be okay, but considering that Utley is facing an injury that could flare up at any moment, running the risk that it could happen while he’s running out an in field single for the Threshers seems like a waste. If he’s going to get hurt, he might as well get hurt here. However, the Phillies seem adamant about making sure that Utley is 100% ready to go before he dons the pinstripes again.

So as the season rolls on, so do the injuries. The team however is still right at the top of the MLB and is still considered an elite team. The question is how soon until the Phillies reach full strength. When that happens, the team that we all envisioned may finally be unleashed on the league.

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.

Phillies Update: Manuel’s Contract, Utley’s Knee and the Outfield

Having been down to Clearwater earlier this week, and getting a good look at the team, it is very obvious that they are looking overall pretty sharp. The Phillies pitchers have not been perfect this spring but at the same time, they look pretty good. It is clear that they are working on things and fine tuning some pitches so there is really no need to worry about that aspect of the team. The three concerns for the Phillies this spring have been Manuel’s deal, Utley’s knee and the outfield situation.

Manuel certainly has reason to smile in light of his new contract.

Charlie Manuel, the 67-year-old Phillies skipper, has a brand new contract with the team. It was announced early Thursday and really only seemed like a matter of time. The contract will keep Manuel in Philly through 2013 and will pay him $3.5-4 million annually including a raise for this upcoming season. The contract will take Manuel into his 70’s where he can decide whether or not he wants to stay in the game. Manuel’s deal will now place him in the top-tier of managers as far as salary and that is where he belongs. Fans might say “why were the Phils so worried about paying that price”, but they have to understand that the Phillies have never paid this much for a manager, but at the same time, this team could be the best Phillies team of all time and that will certainly depend a great deal on their quality skipper. Manuel certainly played his cards right. He never wanted this to be a distraction going into the season and with this new contract in place, there is one issue to check off the list.

Amongst the other issues is 2nd basemen Chase Utley. Utley is 32 years old and is facing Patellar Tendonitis in his right knee. The reckless play that Phillies’ fans have come to adore Utley for, may finally be catching up to him. The injury has kept Utley off the field all spring training, relegating him to only batting practice. In my time in Florida, all I saw of Utley was batting practice and picking up balls and bats afterwards. He certainly seemed in a somber mood and that could definitely be a bad sign. He has not reacted positively to the cortisone shot he received and now there seems to be some bone inflammation. The team continues to insist that surgery is a last resort, but as the days go by it seems more and more likely. Utley will most likely start the season on the disabled list and surgery could either end his season or he could play through the pain and almost certainly see a major dip in production.

Utley has patellar tendonitis which has kept him out of all grapefruit league games.

The Phillies have internal options to replace Utley if need be. Wilson Valdez filled in admirably last year at a couple of spots and is capable of stepping in for Utley at 2nd. He has shown some good fielding this spring but his bat will not replace Utley’s stat for stat. Another option is Delwyn Young. The Phillies have given him a couple starts at 2nd this spring. He has shown some ability and definitely has a shot at a bench spot. Pete Orr was signed by the team this offseason and will also be a candidate.

If the internal options do not work, the team could explore a deal for disgruntled Texas Ranger, Michael Young. Young has requested a trade and the Phillies have popped up as potential suitors in numerous reports. A Phillies package would almost certainly involve dealing Joe Blanton and his $8.5 million annual salary although the team has insisted on keeping Blanton. Texas is short on starting pitching. Young would be closer to Utley as far as plate production than the internal options but what would the Phillies do if Utley is ready to return later in the season. Having Utley, Polanco and Young could certainly pose a problem. Although this seems farfetched, the Phillies have certainly surprised fans before (Lee, Halladay, Oswalt, Lee again).

In addition to being a great acting duo, Utley and Howard have been one of the league's best #3, #4 combinations.

Utley’s absence will be most obvious in the lineup alignment. If any two spots were set in stone, they were Utley at 3 and Howard at 4. Howard will definitely not see many good pitches with Utley out and with Werth gone. With Utley out, a new #3 has to be found. The candidates will include Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, and Shane Victorino. My vote however, would be for Ben Francisco.

Francisco has undoubtedly won the right field job. He won it even before Dominic Brown’s injury but now it is all but certain. Francisco could be a decent option in the 3 spot because of his combination of pop and speed. He is more than capable of taking the ball deep and can get on base and swipe a bag if need be.

In other outfield news, John Mayberry is making a strong case for a roster spot. Mayberry is 27 and is at that age where it is becoming time to make the major league club. He has been great this spring hitting .286 with 2 doubles, 3 home runs, and 4 rbis. A righty outfielder with that kind of pop is something the fans felt the team needed to acquire all off-season and it looks like they already had it in the fold all along.

John Mayberry is having an impressive spring and seems to be in line for a spot on the big league club.

These 3 issues certainly will not be the only ones that occupy the team this season since its only March and a meaningful game is yet to be played, but at least two of them seemed to be taken care of. The fate of Chase Utley’s 2011 is still up in the air.