Thursday, March 17, 2011

Phillies Injuries: Cause for Major Concern? Not Yet.

Yes I know college basketball is in full swing this weekend.  For us sports nuts though, that does not mean that the other sports rest.  Spring training is still going on in Clearwater with the Phillies and this week much ado was made regarding the so called injury bug that has hit the team recently.  I say so called because I don’t not think it is as serious as some would make it out to be.  Through 20 games the Phillies sit at 13-7, winning their last 4 in a row and 8 of the last 10.  They are looking primed and ready for a hot start in April, even with the injuries; but let’s review who could use a little St. Patty's luck.

Dominic Brown is the most serious of the injuries this spring.  He broke his hamate bone in his hand and has since undergone surgery on March 8th.  His time table for a possible return is sometime in April, but realistically he will not return until May.  This injury really doesn’t worry me.  Is it a set back for Brown’s development?  Sure it is, but his replacements, John Mayberry, Jr. and Ben Francisco have played very well this spring.  I am not convinced that Brown would have won the job over either of them anyway. 

Through twenty games this spring, Francisco has started or played in 14 of them.  He is hitting .368 in 38 at bats, with 3 homeruns and 8 RBI’s.  He has also added 3 doubles, 1 triple and has scored 9 runs.  His counterpart Mayberry Jr., is hitting .333 with 4 home runs and 9 RBI’s in 16 appearances and 42 at bats.  He’s also contributed 4 doubles and has scored 8 runs.  The Phillies should not miss a beat due to the injury of Dominic Brown.  It may even benefit the team to be able to leave who ever wins the job in there, or platoon two guys instead of three.  Having Brown on the roster early would force Manuel to find at bats for him; his injury takes that pressure away. 

Chase Utley is out indefinitely with patellar tendinitis in his right knee.  Chase’s injury obviously effect’s the Phillies a lot more then the others.  This injury is more serious then the Phillies have let on.  There is a reason they did not trade away infield talent this off-season for more bullpen help.  According to the patellar tendinitis is defined as:

“…an injury that affects the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone.  The patellar tendon plays a pivotal role in the way you use your legs.  It helps your muscles extend your lower leg…”

I sit in a cubicle all day, and have a newborn at home, so I do not know much about extending any muscles.  For a professional athlete though, being able to extend the muscles in your lower leg seems like a pretty important thing to be able to do.  Especially for an MLB infielder, where jumping to catch line drives and extending your legs to run the bases is a pretty big part of your job. 

The treatment according to the is described as “long process, no matter what type of treatment you’ve chosen.  Recovery may take a few weeks or months if the injury isn’t too severe, or as long as a year or more for people who undergo surgery.”

Chase has not been healthy for a couple of years now; when he is healthy he may be the best second basemen in the game, as well as a major contributor in the line up.  What you don’t want to see is Chase try to play hurt, like he has done in the past.  That would only hurt the team.  The Phillies have a more then capable backup in Wilson Valdez.  Valdez got a lot of experience and playing time last season, playing in 111 games.  He accumulated 333 at bats, hitting .258 with 4 homeruns and 35 RBI’s.  Given the chance to start everyday, his numbers should improve.  Will he be able to hit third in the line up and contribute like Chase? No, but he will be serviceable and the Phillies should survive with Valdez at second. 

Your only other options are NL East journeyman Pete Orr who does have a career .260 average, but he also hasn’t played in more the then 56 games in a season in the last 4 years and hasn’t hit above .253 since 2005.  There is also Josh Barfield, who is a serviceable bench player, but his best years were in 2006 and 2007.  Unless the Phillies make a move with Joe Blanton as their ace up their sleeve for an infielder, Valdez will be the guy for the foreseeable future. 

The hyperextended elbow of Placido Polanco doesn’t really worry me.  Yes it is the same elbow he had surgery on, but as he said, he has played with it in the past.  He is listed as day to day and should be back in a week or so and will be ready for the start of the season.  The worry here though is with Chase out and Polanco a little banged up, given the recent history with Jimmy Rollins, our infield could easily become depleted if injuries continue.  That’s why I say you keep Blanton and if the injury bug hits again during the season, you have a tradable guy that can get you a quality infielder in return. 

The injury to Brad Lidge, listed as tendinitis in the right biceps could be of some concern.  Lidge regained his 2008 form last season and the Phillies are expecting the same out of him in 2011.  A right arm injury to a right handed pitcher is never good, but tendinitis can linger and be a very tricky injury to treat.  As of now Lidge is listed as day to day with no date to come back.  If he can’t go, the Phillies answer would be Ryan Madson.  Madson has filled in in the past; saving 5 in 10 opportunities last season.  The problem here is that Madson is a true setup man, he can close, but he is best suited for the eighth inning.  The problem the Phillies have is there is no suitable option on the roster beyond Madson.  This is the injury to keep an eye on; it could affect the Phillies more then all of the others to this point.

The Phillies line up is more then capable of getting by with some injuries.  They won 97 games last season with the “injury bug” being with them from April through October.  Let’s just hope it stops here; the term tendinitis is being tossed around the Phillies locker room like the term lisfranc sprain was tossed around the Eagles locker room a few years back.  With the big 4 in the rotation and serviceable utility guys with experience, the Phillies should be just fine.  There are plenty of reasons to drown yourslef in green beer today, the Phillies injuries is not one of them. 

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