The Phillies are the early favorites to win the NL East–no doubt about it. Regardless of the pre-season love, the Phils still have a bunch of question marks, mostly due to early injuries to players like Domonic Brown, Brad Lidge, and Chase Utley. I had a moment to catch-up with Justin Klugh, the lead blogger for That Balls Outta Here, and ask him six questions about the Philadelphia Phillies 2011 season.
1. Do you think the Phillies offense will be greatly affected by the loss of Utley for the next few months?
Yeah. A whole bunch of times.
2. How confident are you with the combination of Wilson Valdez/Michael Martinez/Pete Orr at second base?
So far we’ve seen nobody but Wilson out there, and the man’s fielding the ball, and throwing the ball, and hitting extra base hits, and tying ball games in the bottom of the 9th; so the question is, if you’re not impressed by Wilson Valdez, then you need to remember you’re used to watching Chase Utley play that position, so you’re used to watching a power-hitting sorcerer do the things Wilson is doing now.
3. As exciting as it would have been to watch Dominic Brown start in right-field, are you secretly happy to see Ben Francisco get a crack at it while Brown is on the DL?
I don’t know how excited I’d be to watch Dom Brown go out there and scream in pain every time he’d try to catch a ball with a broken hand, so yes, it’s great Benny’s got this chance. Dom will clearly take advantage of the extra development, and if we can sneak him into right field, rather than drop him out there with a dozen spotlights following his every move and every broadcaster uttering the phrase “…replacing Jayson Werth” 10 or 12 times per nine innings, it’ll definitely do him some good.
And the Phillies said nobody was winning that job outright, so in the name of fairness, Benny won it. He tore through spring training like he wasn’t the afterbirth of the initial Cliff Lee deal from Cleveland; the man wanted a god damn job. And he got it. He had three hits, a home run, and a monster catch today that destroyed the city of San Diego. Let him out there. When Dom comes back, we’ll have the space and the desire to find him a job.
4. If Jose Contreras/Ryan Madson hold down the 9th, what do you see the Phillies doing with Brad Lidge if/when he returns?
Did you ever see one of those action movies where the villain is holding some neutral third party character hostage, and the third party guy has some valuable information, but then at the end of the second act, the villain finds out the information through some other means, and looks at the third party character and says, “Well, Mr. ______. I believe you’ve outlived your usefulness.” And then the next scene is some henchmen throwing a rolled up carpet with feet sticking out of it off a bridge?
Brad’s such a likable character, though. He’s totally enthusiastic and works hard and wants to be here. He called Charlie all winter to tell him how excited he was. But when your bones won’t stop snapping and your muscles won’t stop straining, and there are two other guys who can do your job well, and one of them has been groomed for it for years… I mean, hell. We all know what a baseball team would do. Nobody has a “Likability clause” in their contract.
5. Which of the Phillies aces (Halladay/Lee/Hamels/Oswalt) do you see having the best season?
Felix Hernandez. Ruben’s talking with Jack Zduriencik about some trade that makes no sense. Because we are the Phillies, and we’ll just take all of the pitching; thanks.
6. The Michael-Young-to-the-Phillies rumors seem to be coming back–think the Phils will actually pursue him?
Go ahead and look Chase Utley in the eye during a Phillies game. He’ll be the guy in the dugout wearing a wind breaker with his hands shoved in his pockets, his eyes glazed over in a continuous state of repressing pain. He would like nothing more than to work out his knee until it heals over night, sprint out to second base, roll Wilson Valdez into a ball, and drop-kick him into the Delaware River. And he likes Wilson Valdez.
The point is, Chase wants to be back, to the point that he popped up on the big screen at CBP on opening day to tell the crowd “I’ll be back soon!” The effort we’ve put into “replacing” him for the time being is enough; if the Phillies were to bring in some other talented player with a big dumb contract it’d either mean Chase Utley was dead or close enough that they’d be willing to put another player’s life at risk by using him to replace Chase Utley.
Big thanks to Justin for taking the time to take part in the Q&A, and make sure to catch my end of the bargain in his post on That Balls Outta Here.