The Phillies have dealt with a lot of injuries all season and it looks like they are going to get some of them back really soon. Chase just started his rehab assignment and it looks like he could be back sometime during the next home stand. Chooch and Oswalt will play for Clearwater tomorrow night; Chooch could be back Friday in Atlanta an Oswalt should be able to start when his turn comes up Tuesday in St. Louis. Contreras should be back soon and Lidge looks to join the team around the all star break. The Phillies have been helped by having adequate depth in the organization and by having players step up into different roles.
There is also a player in Lehigh right now who is tearing the cover off the ball; Dom Brown has played great for Iron Pigs as he continues to get at bats at AAA. Many thought he would be the teams every day right fielder, but a hand injury during spring training forced him to miss the 1st month of the season. Charlie said he wanted him to get 100 at bats during spring training, so it’s possible that the Phillies want him to get a lot of at bats before he joins the team. They have gotten little production out of either corner outfield positions and there isn’t any way they can keep him in Lehigh if he continues to hit like he has and if Raul and Francisco continue their cold starts.
If you include Dom Brown, the Phillies have 6 players who should join them in the next few months. That means that six players who are currently on the 25 man roster will have to be sent down. The first big question is how the lineup would look when Chase returns to the team. Charlie might let him bat at the bottom of the order for a few games, but the team needs Chase’s bat at the middle of the order. The top half of the order has produced quit well; the problem has been 5-8 in the order. Here is the lineup I would when Chase returns and when Brown is ready to play in the majors:
Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Polanco, Ibanez, Brown/Francisco, Ruiz
It’s no secret that Polanco is best suited to hit 2nd in the lineup, but that is not what this team needs him for. They need someone to protect Howard in the lineup and Polanco is the best guy to do it. He lacks the power you would prototypically want from your 5th hitter but he is the team’s best right handed hitter. Teams would be forced to pitch to Howard in most situations or choose to face arguably the team’s best overall hitter. Rollins and Victorino have had a lot of at bats hitting 1-2 in the order and they have done a very good job in that role. There speed at the top of the order could cause a lot of problems for teams. There are some who argue that you could bat Chase 5th and keep Polanco 3rd, I wouldn’t be completely opposed to that but it could leave you with 4 lefties in a row if Brown is in the lineup.
If you add Utley and Brown to the roster, whose spots are they going to take? Personally, I believe the 1st player is a rather easy decision. It has to be Rule 5 accusation Michael Martinez. He has some promise and potential to be the utility man of the future for the team, but I don’t believe that should be enough to keep him on the roster. I would like to see him stay in the organization, but he holds little value to the team this season. The other spot is going to be a tough decision; it looks like the odd man out might be Pete Orr. The infielder has done very well for the team so far. He has proven to be a reliable pinch hitter who has surprising speed. They could choose to keep 14 position players but it could force them to overuse some of the members of the pen.
Everyone is going to have their eyes on the bullpen when Lidge returns from his injury. Will Charlie continue to send Lidge out there in the 9th even with possible better alternatives? If it was my decision, I would let Madson stay in the closers role even when Lidge and Contreras return. Ryan has the stuff to be an elite closer in the majors; it has always just been question of his mental makeup. So far this season, Madson has been great. He also could be the closer of the future for the team and they need to know if he can handle the job long term if they are going to pay him closers money.. With Manuel’s track record, I would say he will let Lidge at least get an opportunity to close.
The Phillies could be faced with the question of whether or not they can have just 11 pitchers on the roster. Madson, Lidge, Contreras, Bastardo, Romero and Kendrick are locks to be on the roster if healthy. If they go with 11 pitchers, it would leave Baez and Stutes without a roster spot. Even with the rotation and the innings they could potential eat, I would be surprised if they want to a 6 man pen this early in the season. Despite Stutes strong performance so far, I think they would keep the veteran Baez and option Stutes back to AAA. The team would then be forced to part ways with Orr for at least the time being. If he has any options left, they could just option him to Lehigh. But I doubt he has any options left, so they would be forced to send him through waivers and hope no one claims him.
Regardless of the tough decisions the Phillies will have to face when they get their players healthy; it will be a welcomed decision for them. They have battled the injury bug since the start of spring and it will be great to see what this team can do at full strength. When chase makes his season debut at Citizens Bank Park, it will rival the ovation lee received earlier in the season. Chase loves Philadelphia and the phans love him back! It will be a great site to see #26 hitting 3rd and playing second base again; it has been way to long!