Sunday, March 23, 2014

Phillies Week in Review 3/17-3/23: Rollins on the hot seat, Asche wins out, and more injuries

March 23, 2014

By Andrew Sifari

Record: 2-2-1
                   3/19                           3/20                   3/20                        3/21                          3/23
                     L                               W                      L                              T                             W
Games:  PHI @ TOR           PHI @ HOU      PHI vs.  TOR            PHI vs. BOS            PHI vs. MIN 
                  6     -   11              6    -      3           1       -    3                 2     -    2                  5   -      1           
This week was eventful for the Phillies, whose chances for winning have gotten no better as of late. Speculation swirled after a report from ESPN’s Buster Olney suggested that the Phillies are open to trading shortstop Jimmy Rollins. General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. vehemently denied this shortly afterwards. Rollins would do the same later, citing his full no trade clause.

It was announced in the beginning of the week that Cliff Lee would start on Opening Day for the Phillies. This would be the second opening day start of Lee’s career, the other coming in 2009 as a member of the Indians. Lee went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA for the Phillies last season so, with Cole Hamels out, it probably wasn’t a hard decision to go with Lee.

During batting practice Thursday afternoon, 1B/OF Darin Ruf strained his left oblique, leaving the lineup before the Phillies’ game against Houston. Ruf, batting .217 this spring, was thought of as a good candidate to make the Opening Day roster. Further tests are pending, but from what it looks like, the injury will require at least a few weeks to heal.

Another roster candidate was sidlelined Friday when it was announced that infielder Freddy Galvis was hospitalized  for a staph infection. Galvis, who will start the season on the disabled list, was hitting .118 (4 – 34) this spring. Galvis' absence creates the need for a backup infielder, which could take the form of veteran Ronny Cedeno, or possibly the young Cesar Hernandez, who is also an option in the outfield. Galvis is capable of playing second base, third base and shortstop, and is widely regarded as one of the team’s best defenders.

It was also reported Friday by Jon Heyman that Phillies outfielder John Mayberry Jr. is “available” for trade. The veteran outfielder, who is hitting .263 this spring, signed a $1.587 million deal this off-season, and has experience playing the outfield as well as first base in his career.

On Saturday, top prospect Maikel Franco was reassigned to minor-league camp, which means Cody Asche will be a third base for Opening Day. Franco had a great season in the minors last season, hitting .299 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs in 65 games at single-A, and .339 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs in 69 games at double-A. But spring hasn't been too kind, hitting .184 in 16 games.

Asche hasn't fared well either, hitting .175 in just as many games. He missed two games after his right hand got hit by a pitch back on March 2. However, Asche seems to be swinging the bat better with two home runs and three RBIs in his last three games.

Other players still fighting to secure roles with the team include pitcher David Buchanan, and outfielders Bobby Abreu and Tony Gwynn Jr. Utility man Kevin Frandsen was outrighted from the 40-man roster on Sunday.

It’s hard to get a sure feeling about what kind of team the Phillies will be to start the season. Spring Training stats are notorious for being inaccurate predictors of regular season success, though the results so far are hardly promising. Rollins, Chase Utley and Domonic Brown all sport batting averages below .200 thus far, Ryan Howard’s sits at .240, and the bullpen looks shaky. Also, the number of players on the DL has gotten even higher with Galvis and Ruf joining Ethan Martin, Mike Stutes, Mike Adams, Jonathan Pettibone, and Cole Hamels.

On the upside, Buchanan looks to have pitched himself into the Phillies’ Opening Day plans with a 2.70 ERA in 10 spring innings. If Jonathan Pettibone is not healthy enough to take the turn April, the start could be available for Buchanan. Carlos Ruiz’s current average (.286) might regress a bit once the regular season starts, but with 10 hits in 35 at bats, it looks as though Ruiz might be getting comfortable with his swing. In a season where it looks like runs will be a premium, this is definitely a good sign. Bobby Abreu is also holding his own, with a 9-35 line so far, including two doubles and a triple.

In other news, Hamels threw two simulated innings Saturday morning. The lefthander is looking to come back from shoulder inflammation in his throwing arm. His recovery was slowed after a setback earlier in the month, but has continued to make progress in recent weeks. The team maintains that the earliest Hamels would return, according to his recovery schedule, would be at the end of April or the beginning of May. His return will be vital to the effectiveness of a staff that includes fellow lefthander Lee, and righties A.J. Burnett, Roberto Hernandez, and Kyle Kendrick.

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