Chase Utley Injury: 5 Ways for the Philadelphia Phillies to Replace Him

February 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

News surfaced this weekend that Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Utley received an MRI Saturday disclosing the cause for him being out for the first couple Spring Training games.

Before the MRI, Utley’s sitting was said to be due to leg soreness.

Now with the news of Utley having mild tendinitis, Phillies fans are worried about Utley and his status for the season.

The Phillies organization is saying they are just taking Utley’s injury very cautiously.

Even if the injury is not serious, fans should be getting worried about Utley in the long term.

Utley has been hobbled by injuries for the past few seasons. The 32-year-old had his worst full season with Philadelphia last year.

The Phillies offensive stars are growing old and fragile. Their window of opportunity is closing fast.

With the news of the Chase Utley injury, here are five players the Phillies could use to replace Utley if he were to miss significant time this season.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

MLB Spring Training: Analyzing What We’ve Learned About the Phillies So Far

February 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

In the most anticipated spring training in Phillies’ history, the Phightins opened up Grapefruit League play Saturday and Sunday against the Yankees.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far…



Pitcher Rankings

Positional Rankings

2011 Atlanta Braves Preview

2011 Florida Marlins Preview

2011 New York Mets Preview

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

MLB Rumors: Jimmy Rollins and 20 Infielders Who Could Leave After 2011

February 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

With both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues underway, Spring Training has officially begun. As pitchers fine-tune their command and overall “stuff” and hitters try to refine their swing, the rest of us can only look on in awe, now waiting for the games that actually count in eager anticipation. However, there are a select few who are looking forward.

Heading that group of select few are General Managers who will be looking to upgrade their teams next off-season. It seems ridiculous to think that, but as they send scouts to watch potential free agents, we must realize that is indeed the case.

So, as teams prepare for the long haul of the regular season, general managers and players in contract years alike will look to strut their stuff, hoping to land the big contract.

From power-hitting first basemen to slick fielding shortstops, these players will not be flying under anyone’s radar. If you’re looking to add power to your lineup, look no further.

If you need an anchor in your middle infield to handle sharply hit ground balls, we’ve got what you’re looking for. Of course, who will call your game without a catcher? They’re here too.

So with that in mind, we’ll take a look at Jimmy Rollins and other potential free agents at season’s end. At the end of each slide, I’ll list some teams that could have interest in the player.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

MLB Spring Training: Breaking Down the 6 Most Intense Outfield Position Battles

February 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Spring Training is finally in full swing, which means the regular season is just around the corner.  For some players, Spring Training is just a time to fine tune their skills before the season. But for others, it’s a chance to earn a spot on a big league roster.

From rookies to free-agent signings, there are many players battling for positions around the majors this spring.  Here is a breakdown of the six most intense outfield position battles.  

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

2011 Philadelphia Phillies: Is There Any Way They Do Not Win the NL East?

February 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Every team enters every season with questions. 

The bottom line question for the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies is this: Can they live up to this unprecedented hype and bring home the franchise’s third World Series?

I’m not going to go quite that far, but I’d like to give some evidence that, to me, suggests that there is absolutely no way that this Phillies team does not walk away with their fifth consecutive NL East Crown.

The Phillies won the East in 2007 with Jimmy Rollins providing an MVP season and one of the greatest offensive/defensive seasons that a shortstop has ever produced. 

They also won the East in 2010, when a largely ineffective Rollins played in only 88 games.

The Phillies won the East in 2007 with Brett Myers as their closer.  They won in 2008 when Brad Lidge had one of the five greatest seasons that any closer has ever had. 

They won the division in 2009 when Brad Lidge had one of, if not the worst season of any closer in history.

The Phillies won the NL East with Aaron Rownd patrolling center field in 2007.  That season, Shane Victorino played predominantly in right field, while Jayson Werth barely played at all. 

They also won in 2008 with Victorino in center and a Werth/Jenkins platoon in right. 

They won the division in 2008, with Brett Myers (who, incidentally, had to go down to the Iron Pigs that year to “right” himself) as their No. 2 starter.  They won with Jamie Moyer as their No. 3 starter. 

They won their division in 2007 and 2008 with Cole Hamels as their No. 1 starter and a good one, at that. 

They also won their division in 2009 with Hamels having, by his standards, an absolutely dreadful year. 

Are we beginning to see what I’m talking about here?  No?

The Phils have won two division titles with Pat Burrell in left field.  They’ve won two with Raul Ibanez in left field.  They even won with the less-than-mediocre three-headed monster of Abraham Nunez, Gregg Dobbs and Wes Helms at third base!

They’ve won the division winning but 89 games.  They’ve won it with a Major League high 97.  They’ve won it scoring 892 runs as a team.  They’ve won it scoring just 772 runs.  They’ve won with a team ERA of 3.68, and they’ve won with a team ERA of 4.73. 

Here is the main point. 

The last four Phillies teams have won the National League Eastern Division, and all have been significantly different from the team that preceded it.  They’ve won with hitting, and they’ve won with pitching. 

The only constants seem to be Charlie Manuel, an admittedly very strong manager of personalities, but a manager that will never be mistaken for a tremendous strategist. 

Another constant has been exceptional team defense that has always had top notch strength up the middle, with Ruiz, Rollins, Utley and Victorino (and Rowand for one of those years). 

Yet one more constant would be the “big three” of Rollins, Utley and Howard. 

However, all three of these guys had down years last year.  This is a valid concern for Phillies fans, as they are all now into their 30’s and could be on the decline. 

Even if this may be somewhat true, and I chose to think that last year was a speed bump rather than downward slope with a sharp decline, with all three having down years, the team still won the division last year and sported baseball’s best regular season record.

Do they have any competition for the division? 

Well, the New York Mets could have a nice offensive season if the bats of Beltran and Bay come back to join forces with Reyes, Wright and breakout Davis.  They just do not have the pitching to contend. 

The Marlins have some talent, particularly on the mound, but just do not have any kind of team chemistry.  What do you expect when your superstar only cares about himself? 

The Nats?  Maybe in five years.  Maybe not even then.

This leaves the Atlanta Braves.  They have a decent team but certainly not an offensively overpowering one. 

Jason Heyward could be headed to stardom, but will not quite make it to that point this year.  Chipper Jones could be ready for the season, but he will never be close to what he was.  Dan Uggla was a nice pickup, but the rest of the team is filled out with solid, but nowhere near spectacular, veterans. 

Now, their top three starting pitchers are a different story.  Tim Hudson might be the most underrated ace in baseball and can keep the Braves in any game against any other ace in the game. 

Tommy Hanson has a lot of talent but does show some inconsistency.  Derek Lowe might be one of the best number three pitchers in baseball, and if Jurgens can get back to 2009 form, this could be a formidable staff.

The bullpen looks as though it could be decent, but is largely unproven, and the loss of Billy Wagner will hurt. 

This Braves team is solid and could win up to 90 games in 2011.  Does that make them a threat to the Philadelphia Phillies?  Not by a long shot!

Here’s my point.  No matter what has happened over the past four seasons, the Phillies have managed to come away with the East crown every year. 

Will a year come along eventually in which they are unseated?  Absolutely. 

Will it happen any time soon?  Absolutely not! 

This team wins.  That’s what they do.  They will win no matter what adversity presents itself over the course of the next seven months.  They will win with injuries, and they will win with off years from some of their best.

I agree that once a team enters the postseason that all bets are off.  It tends to be the hot team that gets to, and subsequently wins, the World Series.  One thing is for certain.  The Phillies will take home the NL East crown.

There may be those that say that this article is beyond arrogant, that it has been written by an obvious Phillies fan who cannot see any possibility of the Phillies finishing anywhere but first. 

Anything can happen in baseball, right? 

Yes, anything can happen in baseball.  Yes, all of our starting pitchers could have their arms fall off in Spring Training.  Barring a plane crash that takes out the entire starting lineup and two or three of the pitchers, I think the team is safe for their fifth NL East Championship!

Now, everyone go knock on wood!

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Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training: Is Chase Utley Healthy?

February 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Second baseman Chase Utley is a perennial All-Star and the best all-around player on the Phillies roster.

But recently, rumors have been flying about his physical condition.

Mentions of “soreness” in his knees and legs are raising eyebrows. Utley missed both the exhibition game and the first official game this week after “intense workouts” during the first week of camp.

He may not play in the next game either.

Utley has been developing a pattern of injuries over the past several years which are becoming alarming.

Rumors of a hip injury followed him throughout the second half of 2008. After winning the World Series, he did finally undergo surgery.

His health was questioned after that for much of the 2009 season, although he did not miss significant time. In 2010, Utley sprained his thumb and was put on the DL in June. The injury was more serious than initially disclosed, and Utley had to undergo surgery on the thumb. He missed 47 games that year.

Not only have the injuries become a pattern, but so has disguising them. A war of words ensued in 2008 when then-GM Pat Gillick slipped and told a reporter that Utley was experiencing hip problems. Utley vehemently denied the statement, yet in the offseason, it became apparent that Gillick was telling the truth, as Utley had hip surgery.

The thumb injury was underplayed as well in 2010. Now, when rumors of Utley’s health arise, most are inclined to think there is truth to the rumor. Then when Utley drops coy comments to reporters like, “If there’s cause for concern you’ll be the first to know,” it leads people to wonder if they should be worried.

Utley is not a big guy. His weight has been generously listed as 190 pounds on his MLB bio page. His smaller-than-average baseball player frame has led to questions about his endurance for years.

When the previous injuries and previous denials about injuries are all mixed in, it is a recipe for trouble.

The current issue may just be a simple matter of Utley being overzealous and working himself too hard in camp. But until he gets into a regular spring routine, the questions will linger.


Chase Utley photo by Jenn Zambri

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Philadelphia Phillies: Why Charlie Manuel Hasn’t Signed a Contract Extension

February 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Charlie Manuel is undoubtedly one of the best managers in Phillies franchise history. He’s brought the team one of two franchise World Series championships, and he’s won the NL East division each of the last four seasons, making it to at least the NLCS in three of them. He’s compiled a 544-428 record since becoming the skipper in Philly, which amounts to a .560 winning percentage. That is the third best record for any Phillies manager.

Manuel is in the last year of his current contract, which was a contract extension he signed on top of a two-year deal signed (with a third-year club option, which was enacted last year), and he’s yet to sign an extension on his current deal.

This dilemma has many Phillies fans concerned that their skipper won’t be returning next year. While it may be too early to call whether Manuel will in fact come back in 2012, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has assured fans that he will be able to negotiate a deal if all goes according to plan.

As for Manuel, he previously said the same thing as Albert Pujols: he doesn’t want to negotiate anything during the regular season next year and wants to wait until the offseason.

There are many possible reasons why Manuel has yet to ink a new deal with the Phillies. Among them is the fact that this is the last year of his deal and many athletes and managers in all sports who are a bit older in age retire after a championship victory. Take a look at the Phillies right now. They are early favorites to win it all this season, and if that happens, Manuel might consider calling it quits and ending on a good note.

There is also the possibility that Ruben Amaro, Jr. has other plans. The Phillies probably didn’t choose Ryne Sandberg to be their AAA affiliate manager just because he was a manager for the Cubs‘ single-A affiliate. Sandberg has said that managing the Cubs has been one of his lifelong dreams, but when interim manager Mike Quade received the position, Sandberg was out of an option if he wanted any chance to manage a major league team.

This opportunity just might be his chance.

If Ruben doesn’t want Charlie Manuel to come back (which would result in a lot of controversy from fans), he could choose to promote Sandberg to become the next manager of the Phillies for 2012.

Sandberg has said that he enjoys being at spring training this year and the players (notably Chase Utley) have commented that they really enjoy working with him.

If Sandberg has already formed chemistry with some players this year, imagine what he could do as a manager for the Phillies in the future.

I’m not here to say that Sandberg would be a better option than Manuel. Manuel’s got the big-league experience with the Phillies and he’s already proved stable in the managerial position. Sandberg might be a risk to sign, but he could come cheaper and lead the Phillies to a future World Series, regardless of whether Manuel wins or doesn’t win the World Series this season.

Manuel would be a safer bet, but Sandberg could be a good investment for the future.

And seeing that Ruben knows about investments in players and with Charlie, only the sky’s the limit.

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Race for the Ring: Every MLB Team’s Chance of Winning It All in the Near Future

February 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Major League Baseball is in the air. All 30 teams have flocked to a warm weather site with the same goal in mind: Win a ring.

Whether it’s veterans of the league imparting as much knowledge as they can on the young guns, or legends from the past returning to the place that they loved, spring training is a beneficial and necessary time for baseball players.

Baseball is the one major sport in America where spending of loads of money can directly impact the product that you put onto the field. There is no salary cap, just a luxury tax that a team can choose to pay if they so dare.

Quite simply, some teams are contenders while most are pretenders.

There are the teams in baseball who spend mind-numbing amounts of money to keep or acquire top-flight talent and there are many other teams (owners) who are just happy that Bud Selig is so fond of revenue sharing.

Let’s get right to it, here are each team’s chances of winning a World Series in the next three years.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Why They Will Not Win the World Series in 2011

February 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Late February. Optimism fills the air in Major League Baseball.

The reason?

Baseball is back.

Granted, it is only a lowly beginning. Late February is the time for spring training games in Arizona and Florida. The exhibition games, though it is good to see that baseball has returned, are just that: exhibition games.

Spring training is mostly optimistic because of the fact that it is the time of the year when everyone believes they have the chance.

Obviously, there are pretenders. I’m sorry Pittsburgh, but it doesn’t look like the Pirates will be resurrected anytime soon. Likewise for many other teams.

The Phillies, as ESPN would put it, are not pretenders, but contenders.

With arguably one of the strongest pitching rotations of all time, the Phightin’ Phils seem to many people the inevitable 2011 world champions. There is already talk on the Philadelphia FM sports radio station, 97.5 The Fanatic, that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will have a statue of him erected outside of Citizens Bank Park.

That statement is incredibly premature, but it is not far-fetched to say that the Phillies are favorites to win the Fall Classic.

It will not happen.

I’ve been trying to take this thought over the air onto Into The Night, Tony Bruno’s weeknight radio show, but I’ve been repeatedly told that I am too young to get on the air. So I decided to take this matter to the Bleacher Report community.

Anyway, the main weakness that the Phillies roster presents to me is the fact that there are many holes in the offense.

I am a Yankee fan, so I have been ragged on this offseason by the “Phillies Phans” because of the fact that the Phils nabbed the jewel of the free-agent market, Cliff Lee, away from my Bombers. The argument that I fought back with on that matter is extremely relevant to the reason why the Phillies will not be, as Chase Utley might say, “world-bleeping champions come November.”

That argument is this: While the Phillies may have put up the gaudiest offseason on paper, they had a bad one in the sense that they did not acquire what they needed to avoid repeating the disappointing end that the 2010 season had for them.

Think about it.

The Giants, in the entire NLCS, scored an average of 3.3 runs per game. That is not much compared to the league average, which sits around four. This is an indication that pitching was not the problem.

The Phillies just could not hit with the Giants. That was with a good right-handed bat in the lineup, Jayson Werth, whose signing with the Washington Nationals will prove a decent to severe detriment to Philadelphia’s lineup. They will be exposed by left-handed pitching.

Compared to the rest of the NL East, getting to the playoffs should not present much of a problem for the Phils. The regular season is a test of depth and pitching throughout a 162-game grind. I predict that Philadelphia will take the division easily, posting at least 95 wins.

However, with that being said, the postseason is filled with teams that boast excellent pitching staffs, making the playoffs a battle of the team that can hit. The team that can effectively hit and manufacture runs consistently has the best shot at glory.

The team, as of now, that should win it all is the Boston Red Sox. Getting Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis back from injury-ridden 2010 seasons combined with excellent pickups Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will help the offense emerge as the best in the majors. Combine that with a pitching staff led by John Lester which, although maybe not as prodigious as the Phils’, is excellent and the Red Sox should be the favorites.

Now, of course, nothing is ever for sure in the world of baseball. The injury bug can bite and midseason acquisitions can shake up the balance. For now though, the Phillies must add a consistent right-handed bat to their lineup to get them over the hump.

They’re right there, yet they need one extra push. For now, my prediction is a 101-61 record, an NL East crown, but a loss in five games to the Red Sox in the World Series.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Young Pitchers Look To Hurl Their Way Past NY Yankees

February 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

When the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees square off in the Grapefruit League opener tomorrow afternoon, and again on Sunday afternoon, we’ll see a bunch of familiar, big league names.

Cole Hamels, who has been ticketed as one of the Phillies’ “four aces,” will get the start on Saturday, while Joe Blanton will lead the charge on Sunday. Also scheduled to appear this weekend are a couple of bullpen staples in JC Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge.

For those five pitchers, spring training is nothing more than a tune-up—a means of reestablishing their “stuff” while they set themselves up to face major league competition over the course of a 162-game regular season and, as every team dreams, the postseason.

However, for other guys that are slated to pitch this weekend, having successful outings against the Yankees and other Grapefruit League competition is more than a tune-up—it’s a way of proving their mettle as they fight for a spot on the major league roster. 

One man that will throw after Hamels on Saturday afternoon is right-handed starter, Vance Worley. After spending much of the offseason in contention for the fifth starter’s job before the Phillies inked Cliff Lee, Worley found himself in a peculiar situation. Talent-wise, he seems like an easy pick to make the team as a long reliever, but there’s more to the decision than that.

The Phillies, who already have two other long relievers in David Herndon and Kyle Kendrick, may have to make a financial decision as to who gets the spot in the bullpen. Talent-wise, Herndon is the weakest link and Kendrick isn’t too far behind him.

However, after avoiding arbitration with the Phillies for one year and $2.45 million, the team may be hard-pressed to pay him guaranteed money to pitch in AAA.

For that reason alone, it seems like Worley has his work cut out for him as he begins his campaign to make the roster on Saturday. According to pitching coach Rich Dubee, both he and Kendrick will be stretched out as starters during the spring, but they will compete for the same spot in the bullpen.

Last season with the big league club, Worley logged 13 innings and posted an ERA of 1.38, striking out more than eight batters per nine innings while showing good control.

In the long run, however, Worley’s best bet may be to go back down to AAA and pitch regularly as a starter. The long reliever will see very few innings behind this starting rotation and having depth in the minor league system could be a necessary cog in the machine for the Phillies.

If Worley doesn’t win the job out of spring training, he could also be called on to start a game before Kendrick.

Another interesting name to watch on Saturday is left-handed reliever, Mike Zagurski. With Romero and Antonio Bastardo the most likely left-handed relievers to crack the Phillies bullpen this spring, Zagurski has his work cut out for him.

With little left-handed depth, the Phillies may need to call on Zagurski should one of the oft-injured Romero and Bastardo go down with an injury. The major aspect they’ll be keeping an eye on is control.

After yet another call-up this past season, Zagurski disappointed all the same. He posted decent numbers in AAA, highlighted by big strikeout rates and shaky control, and when he got to the big leagues, practically fell apart.

The Phillies will be looking for some consistency out of Zagurski, who could be on his last leg with the team.

Also appearing in the game on Saturday are a couple of interesting right-handed pitchers. The first is waiver claim Brian Schlitter. The Phillies, who were the team to originally draft him, picked up Schlitter off of waivers from the Yankees earlier in the offseason. 

Though he’ll likely join new AAA manager Ryne Sandberg in the minor leagues, where he spent most of 2010 as Sandberg’s closer in the Cubs system, he could show that he’d be a nice call-up in the event of an injury.

Looking to join the hunt for that long reliever’s spot as a long shot is former Seattle Mariner, Ryan Feierabend. Showing versatility as both a starter and a reliever, the Phillies will look at him as the latter, but could stretch him out over several innings. He features a standard repertoire of fastball, changeup, curveball and slider, and won’t blow anyone away with his “stuff,” so like Zagurski, he’ll need to show control in his inning or two.

The Phillies will throw two of their more interesting relief prospects on Sunday, however, when right-handed hurlers Michael Schwimer and Justin De Fratus take the mound.

Schwimer, who stands at a towering 6’8″, 240lbs, brings quite the presence to the mound. He features a live fastball and though his off-speed pitches are still a work in progress, he could earn a middle relief role on his fastball alone.

Over the course of his minor league career, he’s shown average control and big strikeout numbers. In 20 innings with the Phillies’ AAA affiliate, he posted an ERA of just 1.80.

If one relief prospect made strides toward making a name for himself in 2010, however, it was right-hander Justin De Fratus. In my personal opinion, I find it hard to believe that De Fratus hasn’t cracked the Phillies top 10.

After making his debut in 2007, De Fratus hasn’t posted a FIP (fielding independent pitching) above 2.59. At the highest level last season (AA), he posted a record of 1-0 with an ERA of 2.19 in 24.2 innings and later that year in the Arizona Fall League, completely blew away the competition, all the while, developing a slider.

He features a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, along with a new slider and changeup, could be a part of the Phillies bullpen as early as 2011. With Danys Baez on a short leash and De Fratus ready to bust on to the show, it may not be long before De Fratus, or any of the other listed relievers, are wearing red pinstripes.

Of course, it all begins this weekend.

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