Mar 4, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (26) and first baseman Ryan Howard (6) during a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies Spring Health Is Reason Enough To Smile

Part III of TBOH’s season preview highlights the new found health of the Phillies.  Check out forcibly optimistic takes on Michael Young and Delmon Young as well.

(Justin Klugh)

Anyone who claimed there was a bigger issue heading into spring training other than the health of the Phillies aging core were lying to themselves or just plain delusional. The additions of Delmon and Michael Young, Ben Revere, and Mike Adams were nice stories, but they took a back seat to the doctor’s charts for the Phillies big four.

Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Halladay are the key to the Phillies returning to October, period. We have all witnessed what a prolonged absence from any one of these players can do to the club, and it ain’t pretty.

They’ve all been on the long road to recovery, particularly Howard and Utley, but have shown plenty to be optimistic about short of a few hiccups (Halladay’s issues to come later) this Spring.

Jimmy Rollins

Rollins had the least amount of health concerns heading into camp of the four. He played in 156 games a year ago, which is incredibly durable for a 34-year old short stop. However, J-Roll’s hamstrings have been an issue in the past (88 games played in 2010) and are a deal breaker for a speedster like Jimmy. He hasn’t been with the team for most of Spring while he played short for the USA WBC team. Rollins played quite well, hitting .321, adding his usual stellar defense. Escaping the classic without injury was a must, and J-Roll passed that test with flying colors. He’ll get a little work in back with the home team before they depart for Philadelphia, but for all intents and purposes Rollins looks like he is already in game shape.

 

March 14, 2013; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6) hits a sacrifice RBI during the sixth inning at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard was bad in 2012. That’s the quick observation looking at the sluggers stat sheet from an injury shortened season a year ago, but it doesn’t do Howard justice. Ryan experienced one of the most horrific injuries a power hit can suffer when he ruptured his Achilles in the last at bat of the 2011 season against the Cardinals. All of his power is derived from that back heel. Without it at full strength Howard never found his consistent power stroke, and looked rusty for the 71 games he managed to play in.

I was skeptical, as many fans were, that Howard could become that 40 homer guy of old that could carry the team for months on end. But, after nearly 20 spring training games Howard finally looks like his old self.

Look no further than the five spring training home runs Howard has belted thus far. The pop is here, and here to stay!

Anyone who has watched the exhibition season will know that Howard has passed the all important eye-test as well. He looks more comfortable running the bases, and has an extra giddy-up that was absent last summer. I’m no doctor, but I would give Howard a clean bill of heath heading into opening day.

Chase Utley

After the last two Spring Trainings, it seemed a foregone conclusion that “knee-gate” would be a constant figure for every spring training to come with Chase. Last year Utley’s spring debut was delayed, and delayed, and delayed to the point where he didn’t make an appearance with the club until July.

After the debacle that was the past two years, watching Utley play second base has been spectacular. Sure, Utley isn’t hitting worth a darn, but it’s Spring Training. Stats don’t matter.

What’s important is that Chase is playing consecutive games, and showing no sign of wear and tear fielding the position or running the bases. He’s a professional hitter and will figure out what ever is ailing in his swing. He’s one of the hardest working guys in the game, so trust that Utley will be more than serviceable.

If that’s not enough to get you excited, having Utley on the opening day roster should fill the “leadership void” that Paps was complaining about earlier this month. Now the closer and the rest of the club has a class act in the clubhouse day in and day out showing them how to go about their business.

 

“It will take time, but Doc will be back in form soon” Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Roy Halladay

Slowly pull your hand away from the panic button. I’m here to tell you that Roy Halladay will be fine.

The Doc will be all right.

Repeat that over and over when he still is low on velocity in his next spring start. Say it when he doesn’t start the season with the Phils.

We’ve all seen how un-Halladay like Roy Halladay has been this Spring, but it’s not time to panic.

If there was something wrong physically the Phillies would have shut him down. Don’t fall for those stomach bug conspiracy theories, sometimes guys eat bad fish in Clearwater.  Ignore the numbers, and have faith in the wily veteran.

Doc has never been a hard throwing type of pitcher, relying on his control and late movement to get hitters out. Jamie Moyer made it work with a lot less, and Halladay hasn’t reached that level quite yet. He’s going through the growing pains of not having the stuff he once had. It can be a tough adjustment, not to mention the recovery of coming off an injury plagued season.

The Phillies should give Halladay an extended Spring Training to work out the kinks, and then put him on the next plane to Philly when he’s ready. All of Phillies nation has seen what Doc is like when he’s in the zone, so if it takes an extra month to get there it’s worth the wait.

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Tags: 2013 Preview Philadelphia Phillies

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