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2014 New York Gameday HQ

FIELDING This is not a strength for the Phillies, although the addition of Byrd will help in the outfield. Rollins is still reliable, but his range has diminished, as has Utley’s, making the middle of the infield vulnerable. Every play Howard has to make at first is an adventure, and it usually has a bad outcome. Ben Revere is fast in center, but he often fails to get to balls he should track down, while Brown is still shaky in left field, despite a strong arm. It’s reasonable to expect Cody Asche to be solid at third, but he won’t make anybody forget Mike Schmidt. A bright spot is utility man Freddy Galvis, who has a top-shelf glove. STARTING PITCHING Even before Cole Hamels started complaining about biceps tendinitis at the start of spring training, this was not a strength. If Hamels is healthy and able to pitch by the middle of April, as the Phillies hope, then he and veteran Cliff Lee comprise a formidable 1-2 punch. After that, there are some questions. Free-agent acquisition A.J. Burnett is an innings-eater who pitched well for Pittsburgh the last couple years, but Kyle Kendrick is mercurial in the fourth spot, and the Phils continue to hold auditions for number five, particularly if Jonathan Pettibone continues to have arm troubles. One possibility is veteran Roberto Hernandez, who was dumped from the Rays’ rotation last year. RELIEF PITCHING The Phillies had the fourth-worst bullpen ERA last year (4.19) and the third-worst opposing batting average (.259), and it’s not like they stockpiled free agent arms during the offseason. The team hopes setup man Mike Adams will be healthy enough to contribute, but that’s no guarantee. Expensive closer Jonathan Papelbon has been losing steam off his fastball for a couple years now and is vulnerable on the back end. Expect Antonio Bastardo to be the prime lefthander, and youngster Brad Lincoln looked impressive in the spring. After that, it’s a crapshoot, as a collection of live arms searches for consistency. MANAGING The Phillies were looking for a culture change last August when they replaced easygoing players’ skipper Charlie Manuel with Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg wasted little time demonstrating his style by holding a more organized spring training and sending Rollins a message during the exhibition season by sitting him down for three straight games after blanching at a comment the shortstop made in the press. Sandberg believes in establishing rules and then standing back as the players follow them. He wants a team that competes, and it will be interesting to see how he handles a veteran group that was used to Manuel’s laid-back demeanor and took advantage of his good nature during the past two seasons. Domonic Brown DANIEL SHIREY/GETTY IMAGES SPORT


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