With the 2014 season beginning in less than a week, the Philadelphia Phillies go on the road to face the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs, and there are many questions that still need to be answered before opening day, especially these three:
Will the offense get going?
The offense has struggled the most in Grapefruit League play, especially Cody Asche, Domonic Brown, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, who were batting under .200 most of the spring, although Rollins has picked it up after going 0-for-23. Ryan Howard remains a concern, too, batting around .250 with nearly 20 strikeouts.
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The offense hasn’t been all bad, though. Leadoff hitter Ben Revere is batting over .300 with two doubles, five stolen bases and six RBI, and Carlos Ruiz has rebounded from a subpar 2013 by batting around .300 with a couple of home runs and seven RBI. New Phillies right fielder, Marlon Byrd, also is putting up positive numbers with a .300 average, three doubles and seven RBI.
What is the pitching rotation?
With Cole Hamels out, the Phillies rotation is in flux. Cliff Lee will start opening day and has put up good numbers this spring (1-1, 2.55 ERA, 16 K/3 BB). He’ll be followed by A.J. Burnett in the No. 2 spot, although his 1-2 record, 7.53 ERA and 6 K/8 BB are alarming. Kyle Kendrick slots in at No. 3, and his spring (1-0, 2.00 ERA, 8 K/2 BB) has been a pleasant surprise. The big question is who will round out the back end of the rotation? Jeff Manship (1-0, 2.57 ERA, 11 K/2 BB) and David Buchanan (1-1, 2.25 ERA, 11 K/2 BB) appear to be the favorites since Roberto Hernandez (1-1, 4.80 ERA) and Sean O’ Sullivan (0-2, 8.18 ERA) were sent to the minors on Sunday after struggling mightily.
Who will contribute off the bench?
With shortstop Freddy Galvis out indefinitely with MRSA and first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf out 4-6 weeks with an oblique injury, the bench will have some new faces. Tony Gwynn Jr. appears to have won a job as a utility outfielder after posting a .300 AVG, 7 BB, 7 R, 4 2B and an OBP at nearly .450. With Kevin Frandsen demoted to triple-A Lehigh Valley, the two new bench players are Cesar Hernandez and Reid Brignac, who signed as a non-roster free-agent and continues to impress the Phillies brass, hitting over .300 this spring.
With six games on the road to start 2014, it will be interesting to see if the Phightins can find answers to these questions before their home opener Monday, April 7, against the Brewers.