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Charlie Manuel has inserted Jimmy Rollins into the third spot in the batting order against the Orioles. (David M Warren/Staff Photographer)

 Eight days into March, and the storylines here in Clearwater are hard to come by. The biggest pre-spring training competition resolved itself yesterday when Domonic Brown underwent surgery to repair a fractured hamate in his right hand. He'll be out four-to-six weeks, and Ben Francisco will likely open up the season as the Phillies' everyday right fielder.

The only other major plotline du jour is Chase Utley's ongoing battle with what has been described as patellar tendinitis. The Phillies had no update on their second baseman yesterday. He received a cortisone injection in his knee on Friday, so they should have some idea on whether it worked or not by now.

Otherwise, it has been a relatively drama free camp. Six bullpen spots appear to be locked up -- Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez, J.C. Romero and Kyle Kendrick. If Antonio Bastado can stay healthy for the rest of the spring, I'd expect him to get the seventh spot. If not, the Phils could very well think about keeping an extra bench player, at least until Utley's knee is in the clear.

In today's paper, and other coverage. . .

1) Paul Hagen says that moving Chase Utley to the outfield is highly unlikely to happen, and he provides a variety of reasons. Most interesting is his conversation with Phils third base coach Juan Samuel, who made the transition back when he was a player and disputes where the position is any easier on the knees than second base.

2) Roy Oswalt has thrown his fastball less and less over the past few seasons:

Year % of FBs
2010 55.4
2009 60.8
2008 65.9

But the veteran righthander still relies on his four-seamer more than most of the Phillies' other starters (only Cliff Lee threw his fastball more often than Oswalt did last year). And the 33-year-old veteran says that, despite the improvement on his change-up, his heater is still the pitch that dictates his failure and success.

3) The Phillies have scored three or fewer runs in six of their 11 Grapefruit League games. Sound familiar? Last year, they scored three or fewer runs in 75 games, their highest total since 1997, back in the Dark Ages of Phillies baseball.

Now, I feel like I write this story every year. The Phillies offense is off to a sluggish start in spring play. But it is early. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

There is little reason to panic. The Boston Red Sox have scored fewer runs than the Phillies and are hitting about the same rate. And nobody is too concerned about their offensive prospects for the upcoming season. Of the Phillies' 40 runs this spring, nearly half -- 17, to be exact -- have come in the first three innings, when the starters are definitely in the game. Still, the overall numbers are paltry thus far.

OPS: .702 (21st out of 30 teams)
AVG: .255 (T-20)
OBP: .304 (26)
SO: 75 (4)
Runs: 40 (T-21)
R/G: 3.67 (27)

Again, it's early. Most of these hitters are still trying to find their rhythm. Right now, it is what it is. But Charlie Manuel has gotten frustrated with his offense in previous spring trainings. And if this continues, 2011 might be the latest.


Here is the line-up for the next couple of days:

Today vs. Baltimore:

  1. Shane Victorino CF
  2. Placido Polanco 3B
  3. Jimmy Rollins SS
  4. Ryan Howard 1B
  5. Raul Ibanez LF
  6. Ben Francisco RF
  7. John Mayberry Jr. DH
  8. Carlos Ruiz C
  9. Josh Barfield 2B


  1. LHP Cole Hamels
  2. RHP Jose Contreras
  3. RHP Danys Baez
  4. RHP Brad Lidge
  5. LHP Antonio Bastardo
  6. RHP Andrew Carpenter
  7. LHP Dan Meyer

Tomorrow at Detroit

  1. Jimmy Rollins SS
  2. Shane Victorino CF
  3. Placido Polanco 3B
  4. Ryan Howard 1B
  5. Raul Ibanez LF
  6. Delwyn Young RF
  7. Ross Gload DH
  8. Brian Schneider C
  9. Wilson Valdez 2B


  1. RHP Joe Blanton
  2. RHP Ryan Madson
  3. RHP Justin De Fratus
  4. RHP David Herndon
  5. LHP Mike Zagurski
  6. LHP J.C. Romero



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