MLB: Another Quiet Move Made as Philadelphia Phillies Sign Ronnie Belliard

March 31, 2011 by Jason Kim  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. made a small move today, signing Ronnie Belliard to a minor league contract.

Belliard, set to turn 36 on April 7th, was released by the rival New York Yankees this past Monday after showing up to spring training overweight and just hitting .136.

However, the Phils wanted him to set a deeper depth chart at second base with Belliard, after they had released Luis Castillo recently who had also been signed to a minor league deal, too. 

It looks like Wilson Valdez would be the starter at second until All-Star Chase Utley rebounds back 100 percent. And with Placido Planco coming off an injury, it couldn't hurt to sign Belliard, who can also play third base.

For now, Belliard will report to Philadelphia's Triple-A team, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. 

He hit just .216 with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

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Philadelphia Phillies: How the Phillies Became the Favorites to Win the NL East

March 31, 2011 by Alexander Gross  
Filed under Fan News


Don't let last night's snow fall in the Northeast fool you. Today is Opening Day for the 2011 MLB season. This is the moment when 30 teams get a fresh start which means high hopes for up-and-comers, and high expectations for contenders. This is the day when singing "Take me out to the ball game" is refreshing rather than a tedious formality.

The Philadelphia Phillies are the favorites to come out of the National League and for good reason. Even with injuries to second baseman Chase Utley and closer Brad Lidge, one of the greatest pitching staff's ever assembled should be able to weather the storm until these key players return to the lineup.

Looking back over the past few seasons, it's hard not to marvel at how the Phillies have gotten to this place, the land of consistent contenders, of favorites and front runners. The Phillies look to make their third World Series appearance in four years tomorrow when they face the Houston Astros. It's strange enough to say, let alone write that the Phillies are picked to go back to the World Series. A place foreign to most clubs have become a second home for the Phils, a familiar destination where landing anywhere else would seem like they jumped on the wrong flight.

But, I remember a time when the Phillies weren't the talk of ESPN or a top every analyst's power rankings. After the 1993 World Series heart breaker to the Toronto Blue Jays, the seasons that followed were ones to forget. Fans suffered through the seven consecutive years of finishing under 80 wins and 13 straight seasons without a post-season appearance. We had our franchise player Scott Rolen say we weren't committed to winning (he eats crow now every day), and fiery manager Larry Bowa who got us close, but not over the hump.

We experienced Ex-General Manager Ed Wade, although loathed by fans, drafting All Star second baseman Chase Utley, MVP first baseman Ryan Howard and World Series MVP Cole Hamels. He also hired manager Charlie Manuel. He set in motion the new positive direction for the Phillies which Pat Gillick continued and Ruben Amaro Jr carries out today.

 

A Winter to Remember

Winter baseball talk was dominated by superstar free-agent potential destinations, but none bigger than playoff powerhouse pitcher, Cliff Lee. He had just carried the Texas Rangers to the World Series, a feat he did with the Phillies the year prior, pitching close to perfect in both postseasons. Lee had become not only a great pitcher, but a clutch one, throwing with a cool and calm demeanor as if playing catch in a friend's back yard.

When the Phillies traded him to Seattle, all Philly fans thought they had seen the last of the prolific left-handed flamethrower. Lee never wanted to leave, that was obvious. His family loved the community, fans treated him with respect, and his son got superb treatment at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for acute myelitis leukemia. However, after their championship run, Lee was shipped off so the Phillies would be able to afford another ace, Roy Halladay.

So, Lee had to pack up his family and he quickly became a nomadic ballplayer. When Lee heard the news you could see the heartbreak in his face. Leaving the Phillies was much more than just leaving a great team, but it meant departing from a winning culture. The Phillies went on, acquiring the two Roys in Halladay and Oswalt eventually meeting the San Francisco Giants in the National League championship series, falling four games to two.

In the offseason, every baseball expert from New York to Los Angeles thought Lee would go to either the Yankees or stay in Texas. The Yankees offered more money and years while the Rangers pitching legend turned front-office executive Nolan Ryan attempted to sell their World Series appearance and helicopter distance away from Arlington to Lee's Arkansas hometown. But, to everyone's surprise, he returned to the team that shipped him off a year earlier.

After the dust settled, Lee was holding a press conference at Citizens Bank Park with a Phillies No. 33 jersey in hand. He picked Philadelphia for the chance to be on a contender, but more than that, he felt like he was home. Philadelphia has become the place that marquee players who want to win want to go. They are willing to sacrifice money and years on their contract to have a chance at a World Series ring.

 

Perception is not Reality

Philadelphia fans are always portrayed as ignorant and disrespectful, while living on the edge of impatience, but the fan's culture has changed with the organizations. A mirror-image, the organization and fans have evolved and grown up to become the gold standard of the league. Now, joining the Phillies has become comparable to winning a Caribbean cruise or chomping on a juicy cheese steak from Pat's or Gino's, (wiz wit for me, please). 

The Phillies strategic maneuver of bringing Cliff Lee back has joined a long list of tactical moves the front office has made to make the club a perennial contender. GM Ruben Amaro Jr knows like any good cocktail, you need the right ratio of alcohol to fruit juice. The organization's ability to keep their farm system growing strong while bringing in the right high character free agents is down to a science.

As I wrote last week in my 10 bold predictions article, second baseman Luis Castillo wouldn't fit into the culture of the club house and would be cut in a week. Yesterday, six days with the team and he is gone. These are the small decisions that make a big difference between the teams that go to the World Series and the ones who watch it from their living rooms.

Charlie Manuel deserves enormous credit because athletes want to play for a good manager, a manager who will have his player's backs without having to be best friends. Manuel is the man who will get ejected for something his player did wrong on the field and discuss it covertly in house after the game.

There are a handful of teams in the league this year that have the talent to go deep in the playoffs, but what gives the Phillies the edge is their mental fortitude. It was never more apparent then last year when injuries to star players like Utley, Howard, and Rollins plagued the club for the first half of the season. They ended up with baseball's best record.

The free agents that come to Philadelphia now are a microcosm of the people in it; gritty, lunch-pale, hard-hat, fall and get back uppers, and grinders. If a player can't handle that, Philly fans can do without them. The Phillies are not a bunch of prima donnas, but are dedicated to the one goal that really matters: winning another World Championship.

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Philadelphia Phillies: As Opening Day Approaches, Many Fans Still Have Questions

March 31, 2011 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

The beginning of the Philadelphia Phillies' most anticipated season to date starts tomorrow afternoon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Citizens Bank Park at 1:05 p.m. EDT when Roy Halladay starts for the Phillies against their former "ace" Brett Myers, who will be starting for the Houston Astros to begin a three-game series.

This season is undoubtedly one that all Phillies fans are looking forward to, and one that they hopefully will never forget for all the right reasons.

With the addition of Cliff Lee back in December to their already-stellar pitching rotation consisting of Halladay, Roy Oswalt, who was acquired from the Houston Astros at last season's trade deadline, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, the Phillies have the best rotation baseball has seen for a while, they are favorites to win the NL Pennant, and they are favored by many to win it all as well.

First, the obvious: will the Phillies rotation live up to the hype?

Assuming all goes well for the rotation this season, there shouldn't be any issues with the rotation. Even if one of their pitchers was injured, the Phillies can still perform extremely well. They didn't even have Cliff Lee last season and they still led the major leagues in wins, with 97.

Then comes the question of whether the Phillies will be able to win the World Series, as many people believe they will. It is definitely possible, though their biggest threat in the World Series (assuming they make it there, but twists can always occur) would be the Boston Red Sox. They enhanced their strong lineup by signing free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal and by acquiring power hitting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres. This, along with their pitching rotation, poses a huge threat for anyone who faces them.

If these two teams face off in the World Series, it sure would be one to remember.

However, while the rotation is a huge plus, not all is well for the Phillies. Injuries have plagued them this past spring training, including Chase Utley's right knee tendinitis, Brad Lidge's bicep tendinitis and now rotator cuff strain, and Domonic Brown's hand fracture, among others. Here are some questions that the Phillies and their fans might (and probably do) have about their injured players.

Will Chase Utley make a full, fast recovery?

Unfortunately fellow Phillies fans, the answer to this question is most likely no. Chase Utley has been battling this issue for quite some time, but not until recently did it become serious enough to bench him. He's currently on the DL and the timetable for his return is uncertain at this point. Utley hopes that he can make it back by the All-Star break, if not earlier. Regardless, they'll be without their star second baseman for quite some time.

Another question looming is this: With Brad Lidge on the DL, who will take his place as closer and will he succeed?

I wrote an article about this yesterday, which speaks about the extent of Lidge's injury and his likely fill-in, Jose Contreras. Brad Lidge has a strain in the posterior of his right shoulder rotator cuff. This is the equivalent of a tear, though it is still referred to as a strain, and though the amount of time Lidge will be out is at least until May and his return could be as late as July. Phillies fans are hoping for a speedy recovery and, in the meantime, a good effort by Contreras.

Related to Domonic Brown's injury, one of the biggest questions Phillies fans are asking is this: Who will be replacing Jayson Werth in right field, and will he be able to fill the void Werth has left?

In case you haven't already heard, since Brown broke his hand after getting his first hit in spring training, he will be out until at least mid-April. For now, Ben Francisco will be the everyday starter in right field.

This, for the moment, is a good decision. This spring, Francisco posted a .361 batting average, five home runs, 14 RBI, an on-base percentage of .439 and a decent .667 slugging percentage, which amounts to a 1.106 OPS. That's pretty darn good.

John Mayberry, Jr. will be the primary backup right fielder to Francisco until Brown returns, and he is a great option as well. Overall, there shouldn't be any major problems in right field this season. 

Granted, Werth was a fantastic offensive and defensive producer for the Phillies, and Francisco in all likelihood won't be able to completely fill the void, but he should still be able to hold his own.

A final question for now: How is Pladico Polanco doing following his injury troubles?

Polanco is doing fairly well. He had surgery in the offseason to remove bone chips from his left elbow. All was well until Polanco hyper-extended the same elbow in spring training. He says he should be fine for Opening Day, but the injury is still nothing to laugh at. Polanco is one of the Phillies' most productive hitters, and he is needed more than many give him credit for.

All things considered, the Phillies will be the team to beat in the National League and potentially the majors as a whole. The million dollar question is whether they can live up to their expectations.

It all starts tomorrow when Halladay delivers the first pitch of the Philadelphia Phillies' 2011 season.

Please share your thoughts and/or ask any unanswered questions.

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Reasons Why the 2011 Phillies Could (But Won’t) Fail: Part 2 – Injuries

March 31, 2011 by Mike Lacy  
Filed under Fan News

Continuing from yesterday, I’m looking at some of the reasons that people have given as to why the Phillies won’t win the National League East this season.

I’ll take a look at each reason and explain why it won’t keep them from capturing the division title yet again.

 

Injuries

Spring training has not been good to the Phillies as far as injuries go.  They have had several key players suffer injuries, some of which may potentially cause them to miss significant time in the regular season.

While it may seem like the Phillies are suffering worse than most, it appears that most of the injuries are nothing to get too concerned about.

Rookie Domonic Brown broke his hand, but there was a good chance he wasn’t going to make the team to begin the season anyway.

As far as players who will make the team, Shane Victorino was injured in an outfield collision but has since recovered, and this shouldn’t be an issue.  More concerning is Placido Polanco who re-injured his surgically repaired elbow. 

This injury may nag him throughout the season, but he is scheduled to play Opening Day, so it shouldn’t be seen as a major problem.  At least not yet.

Side note: If you’re going to pick the Braves due to the Phillies injuries, don’t you also have to consider that Chipper Jones is unlikely to make it through an entire season healthy?  And yet the Braves lineup is still quite dependent on him being a run producer.

Two injuries for the Phillies do shape up as potential causes for concern, as they are key players who will starting the season on the disabled list.

We’ll start with the closer Brad Lidge who looks to be out for a couple of months with a shoulder injury.  Lidge seems to be injured at the start of every season, so this is nothing new for the team.

In his place, Jose Contreras will serve as the closer.  Contreras was a solid addition to last year’s team, pitching well in a late inning setup role.  He even successfully filled in as closer for a couple of weeks when both Lidge and setup man Ryan Madson (MADSON!!!) were injured.

Will he be a dominant, elite closer?  Probably not.  But based on his success last year, there’s no reason to think he won’t be effective at the role and get the job done the majority of the time.

If he falters, the Phillies can always turn to Madson.  Over the past couple seasons, Madson has been amazing when pitching in the 8th, but shaky when pitching in the ninth.  I have a feeling that is why they opted to go with Contreras over him. 

The bigger problem may come in earlier innings.  Contreras was originally supposed to pitch in the seventh inning, and now that void needs to be filled.  It appears that the job will initially be split between right-hander Danys Baez and left-hander J.C. Romero. 

While both pitchers have been successful in the past, they both suffered from disappointing 2010 seasons.

Could they be replaced by one of the other relievers?  David Herndon, Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo have had varying degrees of success in their careers, but it might be a stretch to ask them to fill a crucial role.

Still, I am not too concerned about Lidge’s absence hurting the team.  As long as Contreras isn’t a complete disaster—and there’s no reason to expect him to be—then they should be fine. 

Remember, there’s a good chance that there won’t be many relief innings to go around.  It’s reasonable to think that the starting pitcher could pitch into at least the seventh inning on most nights.  Even the rotation’s weak (and this is a very relative term) link Joe Blanton is known for pitching a lot of innings. 

On the other hand, Chase Utley’s injury is a definite cause for concern.  A five-time All-Star, Utley is often regarded as the best second baseman in baseball.  He typically bats third in the Phillies lineup, and his combination of power, speed and defense make him an especially valuable player.

So it was troublesome when after just a couple of days of spring workouts, he began to suffer knee soreness.  At first he wasn’t concerned as he apparently feels some sort of soreness every year, and it typically goes away after a couple of days.  This season it did not. 

Eventually he was diagnosed with patellar tendinitis and a condition known as chondromalacia.  Neither Utley nor the medical experts who’ve examined him know exactly how to proceed. 

Apparently, to surgically repair the problem could cause Utley to miss the majority of the season and may not even fix the problem.  So for now, he’s treating the problem by resting and stretching.

There’s a very real concern that this injury causes Utley to miss a significant amount of time, and even if he gets healthy enough to play, the injury could reoccur.

If he is indeed going to miss most of the season, this is a huge loss.  They will go from having perhaps the best second baseman in baseball to perhaps the worst.

During his absence, the majority of games at second base will be played by Wilson Valdez.  Valdez is a career journeyman who did a decent job of filling in for both Utley and Jimmy Rollins last season when they were injured. 

He is an excellent defender, but his offensive limitations probably don’t make him suited for a full-time job.

So will Utley’s injury decimate the Phillies lineup and keep them from the playoffs?

It should be noted that Utley has been injured quite a bit over the last few seasons and last year in particular.  Due to a strained hand ligament, he missed almost two months of the season.  But even before his injury he seemed to be struggling a bit.  And after he returned, he clearly hadn’t gotten his hitting stroke completely back.

He has also played through injuries that have diminished his abilities somewhat.  Most prominent was his injured hip in 2008 which sapped him of much of his power throughout the second half of that season. 

So the team has been able to overcome both absences and injury related drop offs by Utley before.

If Utley can return by the All-Star break (which is what optimistic reports are now predicting) there is reason to believe this might actually help him in the second half of the season.  Utley has shown a tendency to wear down later in the season, and missing a couple of months may help offset that.

Assuming that his hitting isn’t negatively affected (by all reports, it is not.  He has been able to take batting practice without discomfort and it is believed that he would be able to DH if possible), then we might actually see a better hitting Utley in the late months than we’re used to.

If that is indeed the case, then the situation might work out fine for the Phillies.

Injuries are always a cause for concern.  And with an older team like the Phillies, injuries do seem to be more common.  But unless they lose two of their starting pitchers for an extended amount of time, I don’t think injuries can keep this team from winning again.

They withstood extended absences from both Utley and Rollins last year, and that was with most of the surrounding lineup underachieving.  If their other players can come close to their career norms, then Utley missing a couple of months shouldn’t be devastating.

If Utley’s injury does prove to be a season-long issue, then they might have a real issue, but for now, there’s no reason to think that this will slow them down.

Originally published on my blog: Stranger in a Strange Land

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Philadelphia Phillies: From a World Series Favorite to a Flawed Contender

March 31, 2011 by Jarred Kidd  
Filed under Fan News

With Opening Day upon us and the Philadelphia Phillies preparing for their season opener against the Houston Astros on Friday, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what has caused the Phillies to go from being prohibitive favorites to win the World Series to now having a lot of experts picking them to finish second behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

The talk this offseason goes back to the start of free agency and the loss of Jayson Werth to the Washington Nationals. As a powerful right-handed bat behind Ryan Howard, he definitely helped balance out the lefty-heavy lineup and would be a hard piece to replace.

Then, only a week later, the Phils made the biggest splash of the offseason by signing former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to a pitching staff that already had Roy Halladay, arguably the best pitcher in the majors; Cole Hamels, a former World Series MVP; and Roy Oswalt, who would be the staff ace on most teams.

That signing quickly overshadowed the loss of Jayson Werth and in most people's eyes made the Phillies the favorite to win the World Series. With a starting rotation that formidable it was hard to argue anything to the contrary.

But as spring training got underway things began to take a turn for the worse as a slew of injuries brought to the surface a number of issues the team had in other areas, mainly the everyday lineup and bullpen.

First up was the fractured hand suffered by highly touted rookie Domonic Brown. Most people considered Brown to be the likely replacement in right field for the departed Werth, and his physical gifts and minor league success had fans excited about his potential.

Following Brown's injury came the news that the mild soreness in Chase Utley's knee was really a combination of tendinitis and bone inflammation that was not improving with treatment and would likely cause him to start the season on the DL.

This was succeeded by third baseman Placido Polanco re-injuring his surgically repaired left elbow that bothered him for most of last season. While this injury isn't believed to be as serious, it only added to the issues that the Phils were already facing.

The last blow was one that Phillies fans have come to expect with Brad Lidge suffering a posterior rotator cuff strain that is likely to keep him out until July. Nevertheless, it has added fuel to the fire of those who believe this team is no longer the favorite to win the World Series, let alone their own division.

Those doubters include Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and a number of ESPN analysts, most notably Buster Olney, who are all picking the Braves to capture the NL East crown.

Truth be told, I have no problem with any of these predictions and can understand why people might be thinking that way.

But as the great Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend!"

Domonic Brown's injury gives Ben Francisco the chance to play everyday and as Bleacher Report Phillies featured columnist Ryan Wolcott points out, projecting his stats out over an entire season he would bat close to .270 with 18 home runs, 84 RBI and 24 stolen bases, which isn't far off from Werth's numbers.

The Chase Utley injury is without question the biggest concern and if it shelves him for the entire season than I too would have my doubts about this team's World Series aspirations. But Wilson Valdez played admirably in his absence last year and I think he can hold down the fort for a month or two. Besides, having previously seen Utley's toughness and ability to play through pain, I have no doubt he'll be back before this seasons over.

As far as Brad Lidge is concerned, his abilities have been in decline for the past two years. Stuff wise, Ryan Madson's repertoire of pitches is far nastier, he just needs to find that closer mindset that has seemed to allude him when given the chance. And if it's Jose Contreras and not Ryan Madson, I still have as much confidence in him as I did in Lidge.

There is a saying that goes, "What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger," and I think that fits this team perfectly. For the most part the Phillies are comprised of players who don't seek the spotlight and would probably prefer to be the underdog rather than the favorite.

So by all means let the skeptics continue to doubt the potency of their lineup and question their bullpen. Just remember there's a reason they call them the Fightin Phils, because no matter what obstacles might come their way, I'd bet on them to still be fighting come October.

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MLB Preview 2011: Finalizing the On-Paper Series, Who Wins the World Series?

March 31, 2011 by Adrian Fedkiw  
Filed under Fan News

To me, Opening Day always marked the beginning of spring—despite what that silly groundhog says.  A little bit after 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the season officially begins, and I can't contain myself.

Everyone starts at 0-0, and fans from all teams remain optimistic.  Even fans from the Royals and Pirates think they have a shot.

Baseball is back!!!!!!!

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

October Is Right Around the Corner: Who Will Be the World Series Winner in 2011?

March 30, 2011 by Ryan Cook  
Filed under Fan News

March 31st is a special time of year. At least for some fans, anyway.

Fenway Park is optimistic, hot-headed and unbelievably confident. San Francisco looks to defy odds-makers, repeat their World Series win, and halt the Philadelphia Phillies. While the Cubs are the Cubs, you may need a weather balloon and a stern cup of coffee to predict our unlucky Chicago friends.

Yep, it's Opening Day. Not much has changed. I'll produce my World Series pick, it will probably look foolish in six months time, and you can revert back to this article and poke fun while having a good chuckle with your friends.

It's all in good spirits, right?

Of course. It's baseball. It's as unpredictable as Global Warming.

So you think the Red Sox will take home the pennant? The Yankees? The Blue Jays?!

Sure, they are all strong picks. No doubt. But like so many Opening Days in the past, we really know nothing until the season kicks off.

Here's a prediction. Don't mark it down as wrong just yet. All of these teams will stand in front of a white line tomorrow, watch an over-sized flag engulf the field, and probably witness a few horrendous opening pitches by guest celebrities.

It's baseball. It's back.

Ready, set, go.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

MLB Opening Day Predictions: Favorites and Contenders for 2011 Awards

March 30, 2011 by Andy Vanfossan  
Filed under Fan News

It's here! It's finally here! The day all baseball fans begin counting down towards once pitchers and catchers report in February: Opening Day! Hope springs eternal for all 30 teams and their fans.

Maybe this will be the year the Twins finally get over the hump and win a playoff series. This may be the year we see the first $300 million player in Albert Pujols and maybe this will be the year that somebody knocks Roy Halladay off as the best pitcher in the game today platform.

In this installment, I will name my favorite to win the respective AL and NL Cy Young Award, MVP, and Rookie of the Year and who I think the top three contenders will be. As always, feel free to disagree and state your reasons. Good luck to all fans and teams this year!

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

MLB 2011: Philadelphia Phillies Cut Luis Castillo

March 30, 2011 by Adam Bernacchio  
Filed under Fan News

What does it say about what the Philadelphia Phillies thought of Luis Castillo that they cut in him in favor of Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez?

It says the Phillies think Castillo is toast. Perhaps if Steve Jeltz was still playing second for the Phillies, Castillo would have made the club. Actually, maybe not.

The Phillies cut Castillo a little more than a week after signing him to a minor league contract. Castillo would have made $414,000 if he made the Phillies’ roster, but since he didn’t, the Phillies don’t owe him ugatz.

With Chase Utley slated to start the year on the DL, the Phillies will roll with Valdez as their starting second baseman. Valdez has a career .240/.289/.326 slash line with five HR’s in 732 plate appearances.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Brad Lidge Out 3-6 Weeks: Can Jose Contreras Handle the Closer Role?

March 30, 2011 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

After receiving an MRI yesterday, it was determined that Brad Lidge's injury woes will continue: He has a strain in the back of his right shoulder rotator cuff.

In other words, according to Courier Post Online, this is equivalent to a tear and he could even be out until July.

This is far from good news that the Phillies have received throughout this year's spring training.

Domonic Brown broke his hand after ending a hitless streak of over 15 at-bats; Chase Utley is out indefinitely with tendinitis in his right knee; Placido Polanco hyperextended his left elbow, on which he received surgery this offseason; and Roy Oswalt suffered a scare when he was hit by a Manny Ramirez line drive.

Now, after returning from bicep tendinitis, Brad Lidge—who was healthy for spring training for the first time in a long time—remains on the list, which at this point seems endless.

With every injury comes a fill-in and in this case, like all others, the Phillies' closer role is currently vacant.

While the temporary replacement of Brad Lidge has yet to be finalized, manager Charlie Manuel thinks that the role should and will go to Jose Contreras. Ryan Madson was in the running, but Manuel, among others, believes that he will do better in the set-up role for now, where he has consistently pitched well over the past few seasons.

Before we think more on this likely decision, let's take a look at Contreras' role with the Phillies last season.

In his first season with the Phillies last year, Contreras also pitched in his first season as a reliever. He made 67 appearances in relief last season, more than any other Phillie. In 56.2 innings of work, Contreras posted a 6-4 record with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. He also recorded 13 holds and yes, four saves. He also struck out 57 batters who faced him.

Not bad, considering his age (38 last season) and amount of appearances, is it?

Although the closer role is much different than a relieving or even a set-up role, let's take a look at Brad Lidge's stats from last season.

Lidge, who spent a long stint on the DL last season, had a record of 1-1 in 50 appearances comprised of 45.2 innings of work. In that amount of work, Lidge posted a 2.96 ERA and struck out 52, posted a 1.23 WHIP and 27 saves.

Take a look at the ERA, strikeouts and WHIP. These stats between the two are oddly similar. And while innings pitched, record, appearances and saves are incomparable (due to injury and different roles), the comparable stats are very close to each other. Although ERA is a bit more distant that Ks and WHIP, 38 points isn't too far off.

So the question now is this: will Jose Contreras be able to handle the temporary role of closer?

There are arguments on both sides.

One could argue that he can because he did so well as a reliever and closer last season, and the fact that he was 38 years old shows he's durable and can continue posting such stats. In fact, both pitchers allowed the same amount of home runs (five) and Contreras actually allowed fewer walks than Lidge in more innings of work—Lidge allowed 24 walks; Contreras allowed only 16.

On the other hand, Contreras only has one season of relief work under his belt and his ERA is a bit too high for a reliever.

He could also be drilled this way: There is only one closer on the team, and there are four or five relievers. Relievers can be split up by day and batter; closers must face all batters in the ninth inning in order to record the save.

And then there's more. Since the rotation will most likely go deep into games—at least seven or eight innings per game—only a reliever or two will be used, and the closer will be used often.

If Contreras had to pitch three or four out of five games, would he be able to handle such stress on his arm? Remember that he was a reliever for the first time last season and would be called upon maybe every three days. Starters are called upon every five days.

An average closer could be called upon four of five days. That's a lot of work.

If the cons ultimately outweigh the pros, Ryan Madson could look like a great option. He's in a contract year and he's got to deliver. If he shines and Contreras falls, then this might be the golden opportunity for Ryan Madson to nab the closer role and more money for the 2012 season.

Madson, who's been a reliever for most of his career, knows how to handle the eighth (and somewhat the ninth) inning situation through much experience. Could he end up as the Phillies' closer?

For the meantime, Phillies fans' minds are wondering whether Contreras is the right decision for the closer role.

Is it the right move?

Only time will tell.

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