Sunday, April 12, 2009

An up-and-down first week.

The first week of the Phillies' season is in the books, and despite terrible starting pitching and falling behind in all six of their games, the Phils' head to Nationals Park tomorrow with a satisfactory 3-3 record.

In honor of arguably my favorite talk show on WMUC, I'm going to put together a "Rose-Bud-Thorn" for the first week of the season. Here's two things I liked, two things I didn't like and two things I'm looking forward to about the Phils.

Rose: The bullpen. The Phils' starters have been terrible (see below), but the pen has kept the team in games so far. In 24 innings pitched, eight relievers have combined to allow just seven earned runs. Clay Condrey, Ryan Madson, Jack Taschner and Scott Eyre have combined to pitch 10.2 innings WITHOUT ALLOWING A BASERUNNER. That's more than perfect game for those guys. Brad Lidge is 2 for 2 in save opportunities, and Madson especially has shown tremendous stuff in the eighth inning. I'd take Lidge and Madson over Rodriguez and Putz right now and I don't care what you have to say about that.

Rose: Chase Utley. It wasn't clear whether the stud second baseman would even be ready to start the season after offseason hip surgery, but clearly he's good to go. Utley hit .476 in the first six games, and hit the game-tying home run in the 8th inning of the Phils' win over the Rockies today. He also made at least one diving play that I can remember on a ground ball up the middle, so clearly he is not limited by his injury.

Thorn: The starting rotation. Each of the Phillies starters has been pretty terrible, except arguably Brett Myers who settled down after his first two innings in the season opener and pitched a decent game in his first win of the year Saturday night. Collectively though, the Phils' starters are 1-3 with an 8.41 ERA the first time through the rotation plus a second start by Myers. Chan Ho Park sucked today in his first start, giving up five runs on seven hits in 3.1 innings. Joe Blanton gave up seven runs on nine hits on Wednesday, and Cole Hamels gave up seven runs on 11 hits on Friday. There have been no quality starts through the first six games, and only Myers has made it into the sixth inning. The offense and bullpen can only bail the club out for so long.

Thorn: Jimmy Rollins. The 2007 MVP is off to a terrible start, and is in one of those stretches where he just looks uncomfortable at the plate. This happens to him from time to time, and you usually just have to wait it out. When he's not going well he often chases pitches out of the zone and that's what he's doing now. Rollins is hitting 3-for-28 (.107) right now. One just needs to appreciate his defense until he snaps out of it.

Bud: The Hamels situation. The 2008 World Series MVP was terrible in his first start on Friday, and his stuff wasn't nearly where it was at the end of last season. His command was spotty, and his fastball, which usually sits in the low 90s, was stuck around 86 or 87. It's possible he just isn't up to speed yet after missing time in spring training with elbow stiffness, and hopefully that's the case as opposed to a more serious injury. Our esteemed colleague Eric Detweiler seems to think the Phils should send Hamels to the DL to make sure he is fully healthy, but I'm not ready to believe in that yet. Hamels has maintained he is OK, and hopefully he'll work his way into form soon enough. The Phils are going to need him to pitch well if they are going to compete this season.

Bud: The Phils in DC this week. I'll be at the ballpark for some Phillies-Nationals action Monday and probably either Wednesday or Thursday as well, and Barack Obama is scheduled to throw out the first pitch Monday afternoon. Nationals President Stan Kasten invited Phillies fans to invade the ballpark , so I don't want to let him down. The Nats have looked good so far by the way. Almost got that first win today.

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