PITTSBURGH — There were a dozen or so Pirates fans lined up outside the left field gate of PNC Park on Thursday afternoon to watch their team work out. It's the beauty of opening day; everyone is in first place.
That's a spot the Phillies are accustomed to beyond April, but once again they are the trendy "don't pick" candidate as the pundits make their picks. (Prediction: The Phillies will play 162 regular-season games in 2012.)
As the Phillies prepare to practice once more before playing meaningful baseball, here are three thoughts based upon the opening day roster...
1. Taking 12 pitchers was a minor surprise. Joe Blanton won't start until April 13, but maybe as late as April 15. The Phillies will probably have him sit in the bullpen during the season's first few games, so that adds an arm to the bullpen.
Mike Stutes' shoulder is apparently fine after an inning in Florida on Wednesday night. That could have pushed Joe Savery off the roster in favor of an extra bench bat. It didn't.
Charlie Manuel raved about Hector Luna for the final two weeks of spring training, but there are reasons why Luna has played in just 29 major-league games since 2007. He's a depth player who cannot play any of the middle infield positions.
The best case for keeping Luna would have been that he bats righthanded. Let's say the Phillies start both Ty Wigginton and John Mayberry Jr. against lefthander Erik Bedard on Thursday. That leaves exactly zero righthanded bats on the bench.
Now Phillies people have been quick to note Pierre is a career .305 hitter against lefthanded pitching and hit .329 against lefties in 2011. But as the guys over at Crashburn Alley note, Pierre isn't exactly a power threat.
Laynce Nix is a career .181 hitter with two home runs against lefties (.111/.226/.185 last season). Pete Orr is a career .233 hitter with .288 slugging against lefties. Brian Schneider is a career .226 hitter with six home runs against lefties. And then there's Jim Thome...
|vs RHP as LHB||2265||7256||5798||1699||489||1257||1361||1652||.293||.428||.612||1.039|
|vs LHP as LHB||1472||2871||2461||588||115||417||364||835||.239||.341||.426||.767|
So if a team has a good lefthanded reliever and the Phillies need some pop off the bench, it's not looking favorable.
2. Savor it, Savery. Joe Savery's inclusion on the opening day roster is a remarkable story. You know it by now, but the starter-turned-first-baseman-turned reliever will bask in it.
That's because his stay could be short.
Jose Contreras will pitch for single-A Clearwater in their season opener Thursday. He can be activated April 10 from the disabled list, meaning he'd miss only the first four games of the season. It's expected that Contreras returns some time around that date as he builds arm strength.
Savery would be the guy to go, barring another injury. But he'll be back after that. He's a big-league pitcher and that he's on the radar this soon in the 2012 season is incredible.
3. Things change. Last April's opening roster included Danys Baez, J.C. Romero and Orr. Ben Francisco was the starting rightfielder. Vance Worley was in triple A. So was Mike Stutes. Hunter Pence was in Houston.
This is obvious; a 162-game season breeds change.
The one thing that should stick out is the potential depth at triple-A Lehigh Valley. It's not unreasonable to think any one of Domonic Brown, Hector Luna, Luis Montanez, Scott Podsednik, Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen, Andres Blanco, Phillippe Aumont, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, Raul Valdes, Michael Schwimer, Brian Sanches, Dave Bush or Pat Misch could spend time in a Phillies uniform. That's something the Phillies have to feel comfortable about.
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