CLEARWATER, Fla. -- What I like, and dislike, about the Phillies:
- They're healthy. And that's not as simple as it sounds. Chase Utley missed all of last spring with knee issues. Ryan Howard was tentative following Achilles tendon surgery. Roy Halladay made it through the spring but for the first time since 2005, failed to contribute 200 or more innings pitched (he checked in at 159 1/3). For the first time in a long time, the Phillies are in one piece. “Right now, we're probably in the best health we've been in since I've been managing here,” Charlie Manuel says. Outfielder Delmon Young (ankle) will likely miss the first two weeks of the season, but otherwise, as of now, these guys are good to go.
|More on spring training|
|More on Phillies|
|More MLB coverage|
- Pitching, right? Even with Halladay starting to show signs of wear and tear, there's Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and that remains an intimidating front three. No way Lee will pitch 211 innings again this year and only collect six wins.
- The bullpen. Behind closer Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies signed free agent set-up man Mike Adams, adding him to Chad Durbin, Antonio Bastardo and Phillippe Aumont. “He definitely changes the whole look of the pen,” Manuel says of Adams. The skipper is particularly excited about youngsters Aumont, Justin DeFratus, Jeremy Horst, and with the idea that if veteran lefty Raul Valdes wins a spot, he could have multiple lefty relievers to match up in the late innings (Jake Diekman and Horst are lefty, too).
- Ben Revere in center field. Look, Shane Victorino was a huge part of Philadelphia's five consecutive NL East titles. But he aged quickly and Revere as opening day center fielder in 2013 is better than Victorino as opening day CF in 2012.
- Philles vs. Nationals, baseball's newest best rivalry. Halladay throwing behind Tyler Moore earlier this spring? Hamels plunking Bryce Harper last year? “It was fun,” Revere says of this spring's Phils-Nats dustup. “It was the beginning of what we're going to see the whole season, us vs. the Nats. It's going to be a fight.”
- Catcher Carlos Ruiz has been a bad, bad boy. He is out until at least April 28 after getting whacked with a 25-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abused policy. Coming off of the best offensive year of his career (.325, 16 homers, 68 RBI), Ruiz's absence increases the Phillies' degree of difficulty out of the gate.
- You wonder whether the Phillies' infield is getting too old. Howard (33) and Utley (34) battled injuries last year. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins is 34. And new third baseman Michael Young is 36. And though Halladay theoretically is healthy, he's 35 and has thrown the second-most innings of anyone in the majors since 2006.
- No matter how you slice it, the Phillies likely will be in for rocky times defensively with Michael Young at third base and Delmon Young in right field. Those two spots are not going to help Lee, Hamels, Halladay, Kyle Kendrick, John Lannan and whomever else happens to be working on the mound. In what should be a very tight race with that Nationals and Braves, defense might be what pushes those two ahead of the Phils.
- The Phillies would have loved for Darin Ruf to win an outfield job this spring, and maybe he will, but not on the basis of his play so far this spring -- both offensively and defensively. Rough time for the man who could be the next great Phillies slugger. “He can hit,” Manuel says. Indeed, Ruff slammed three homers and collected 10 RBI in a cup-of-coffee call-up last September, 12 games and 33 at-bats' worth. “He was hitting good pitching, too,” Manuel says. “The Braves, the Nationals.” But his adaptation to the outfield has been shaky. “The wind blows every day, and I didn't expect him to make all of the plays,” Manuel says. “I think he's working hard in the outfield, but it has hurt his hitting. … He is a tremendous hitter. He's got it. It's just a matter of time.”
- After Young returns to right field, will a Domonic Brown/John Mayberry Jr./Laynce Nix platoon give the Phillies what they need in left field? Brown, 25, is having a torrid spring after hitting .235 over 56 games last summer. The Phillies like him a lot. Worst-case scenario is nobody steps up.