Almost Here…

Spring is in the air. Well not literally as there is still plenty of snow on the ground and it’s colder than a witch’s unmentionable. But with the reporting of pitchers and catchers around the corner (tomorrow), that warm feeling you get when you smell the grass and hear the crack of the bat or the pop of the glove is there.

After the sustained the success the Phillies have had the past three seasons where they are the defending three-time NL East champs, two-time defending NL champs, and 2008 World Series champs, the excitement is there for another serious run at a world championship.

Some guys have already made the trip down to Clearwater said Todd Zolecki. They are Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, Chad Durbin, Kyle Kendrick, J.A. Happ,  Ryan Madson, Danys Baez, Brian Schneider and others.

PLUG: By the way, I haven’t ordered it yet but order/buy Zolecki’s new book “The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly.” The title is self-explanatory and I am excited to read this seeing as I like Zolecki’s work.

But here are a few things to look forward to this spring:

Battle for fifth starter: Though Ruben Amaro, Jr, has already dubbed Jamie Moyer the fifth starter, Kendrick has a very good shot at earning the spot by May if he doesn’t win it in Spring Training. The pressure is off of Kendrick as he can upseat Moyer, who isn’t healthy yet. This gives Kendrick the extra time to impress Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee.

Here’s what both did last year as starters:

  1. Moyer: 25 starts, 10-10, 5.34 ERA, 143.1 IP, 78 K
  2. Kendrick: 2 starts, 1-0, 3.18 ERA, 11.1 IP, 7  K

Though Kendrick’s sample size is small, Moyer’s sample size proved he can not be an affective starter anymore. He averaged under six innings per start, a terrible number for any starter. Moyer was better in long relief last season as well, posting a 2-0 record and 1.93 ERA in five appearances of 18.2 innings.

Romero and Lidge getting healthy: Both Romero and Lidge were key parts of the 2008 world championship team. Their injuries and ineffectiveness were also things that hurt the Phillies in 2009. Lidge blew 11 saves last season while posting  a 7.21 ERA as the closer. Romero came back from his 50-game suspension for using an illegal substance and had his solid return cut short due to injures. He was only able to go 16.2 innings in 21 appearances and his absence in the post season hurt the Phillies as well.

Lidge had surgery after the World Series to have loose bodies in his throwing elbow removed. He also had surgery on his right knee, which he admitted hurt him all season, forcing him to alter his mechanics and pitch less effectively.

Romero had surgery on his left elbow and is hoping to be back by Opening Day. On Zolecki’s blog:

[Romero’s] doctor told him that he was “going to be 100 percent ready to go by the second week of March. From that I could let it loose and go get ’em. I’ve been recovering very well and long tossing and stuff like that. I think I might be farther than what (team physician Michael) Ciccotti was expecting.

Will we see Hamels of 2008 or 2009: Hamels was another pitcher who took a complete 180 from 2008 to 2009. He was the most unlucky pitcher I have ever seen. His frustrations carried all the way into the playoffs where he admitted he just wanted the season to be over after his awful start in game three of the World Series.

One way Hamels is going to improve this offseason is him learning a new pitch. He hopes  add a cutter and improve his curve to make his fastball/change-up combo more deadly. The change-up i his bread and butter pitch but hitters got used to it in 2009. He will need to keep hitters off-balance in 2010.

Another factor that I think will make Hamels a much better pitcher in 2010 is the presence of Halladay. Halladay is the ace and that takes a lot of pressure off Cole. They could form a tandem as formidable as Tim Lincecum/Matt Cain in San Francisco and Adam Wainwright/Chris Carpenter in St. Louis. Both of those teams along with Los Angeles will be other contenders for the NL crown.

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