The corner outfield spots were among the biggest question marks on this Phillies roster heading into the season, and not much has changed as the first week of the Phillies schedule concludes today against James Shields and the Royals. We'll get our first look at Ezequiel Carrera, who is in the lineup in right field, making him the third starter the Phillies have used at the position in their first six games. Carrera was claimed off of waivers from the Indians at the end of spring training. The left-handed hitter has plenty of speed and will get a chance to earn himself some playing time in a rotation that already includes lefty power bat Laynce Nix and righty John Mayberry Jr.
Carrera shouldn't be expected to help much in one of the areas that has been lacking in the lineup thus far: power. The Phillies have actually had a pretty good approach at the plate through the first six games of the season. They've drawn a walk in 9.1 percent of their plate appearances, the fourth-highest rate in the National League, and they are averaging 4.00 pitches seen per plate appearance, which also ranks fourth. The Phillies have 17 walks. Last year, they did not draw their 17th walk until the ninth game of the season. They ranked 10th in the NL in pitches-per-PA at 3.78. But as Kevin Frandsen showed last night with his walk-off three-run double in the bottom of the ninth, nothing creates offense faster than extra base hits, and the Phillies have struggled to accumulate them thus far. They've produced an XBH in 5.9 percent of their plate appearances, which ranks 11th in the NL. Chase Utley is responsible for four of their 11 extra base hits. The problem is behind him. Michael Young and Ryan Howard entered Sunday hitting a combined 6-for-35 with no extra base hits, 10 strikeouts and six walks. Young did not show much power in spring training, which is why Charlie Manuel is anxious to get Delmon Young and Carlos Ruiz back from their respective absences (Young from the DL, where he is recovering from a sprained ankle, and Ruiz from the restricted list, where he is serving a 25-game suspension for a positive stimulant test).
The upcoming week offers a good opportunity for the Phillies to get into a groove. They have a tough matchup today against Shields and an imposing one on Monday against Mets righty Matt Harvey, who struck out 10 and allowed just one hit in seven scoreless innings in his 2013 debut against the Padres. But the Phillies should have the pitching advantage in at least four of their subsequent games:
Monday - RHP Matt Harvey vs. RHP Roy Halladay