It’s here! Baseball season has arrived and I could not be happier. As the Phillies pitchers and catchers started to pile into Clearwater, Florida, this weekend, a sense of happiness is coupled with a sense of insecurity. It is no secret that over the offseason the NL East is now much more challenging, and while the Phillies are still considered favorites, it is not a given they win the division by any means.
There are many reasons why they may not live up to expectations, but here are the top five question marks for the Phillies heading into this season:
1. Can they stay healthy? In recent years, older players such as Chase Utley and Placido Polanco have battled injuries for a good portion of the season. Although the Phillies have improved their bench overall, they still cannot afford an injury to a key player.
2. Who will be there leftfielder? All signs are leaning toward John Mayberry, Jr. being the starting left fielder for the Phils, however, he may be used as a fill-in at first base until Ryan Howard comes back from injury. I like to think that Juan Pierre will receive a good amount of playing time. He would bring speed and plate presence to a lineup that could use both.
3. What will happen with Cole Hamels? Signing Cole Hamels is by far the most important thing for the Phillies as a franchise. The Phillies would love to get this done ASAP, but if you are Hamels and expect to have a huge year, it makes sense to hold off. If he comes out and has a Cy Young-type season, he may command more money than the Phillies can handle. This will be interesting to keep an eye on.
4. Can Vance Worley continue his success? He came out of nowhere last year, but a slump is usually expected in year number two. Other teams have a better read on him, and things may not be as easy as they were last year. He seems to have a great work ethic, but I guess we have to wait and see how this goes.
5. Can the Phillies finish with the best record in baseball again? The Fightins have had baseball’s best record for two straight years, but it is unlikely they will finish on top again this year. The Marlins and Nationals have improved on paper and the Braves are expected to, once again, be up for the challenge. Winning over 100 games is probably not going to happen, but a fan can hope.