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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Miracle Season? If the Phillies Pull This Off. . .

Ryan Howard was placed on the disabled list today because of the ankle he sprained Sunday against the Nationals. He's the 15th Phillie -- that is no misprint -- to spend time on the DL this year.

So now, here's the Phillies lineup:

C -- Carlos Ruiz
1B -- Cody Ransom or Ross Gload
2B -- Wilson Valdez
3B -- Placido Polanco
SS -- Jimmy Rollins
LF -- Raul Ibanez
CF -- Jayson Werth
RF -- Ben Francisco (tonight, at least).

Howard joins 2B Chase Utley (out until the end of the month) and CF Shane Victorino (out for a few more weeks) on the disabled list.


Double yikes!


As I write this, the Phillies were en route to beating the Marlins behind Roy Halladay while the Mets and Braves were tied late in the game. The Phillies desperately are trying to hold serve, so to speak, in August. Stay within striking distance of the Braves in the NL East and the Wild Card, and September is ours, or so they reason. Recently, over the past five years, that's been the case.

But what a tall task it is? Who loses the likes of any of their position players (save Werth, who has been healthy all year) and doesn't plummet in the standings? How can you expect the likes of Brian Schneider, Dane Sardinha, Paul Hoover, Valdez, Juan Castro, Greg Dobbs, Gload, Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco, Cody Ransom and John Mayberry, Jr. (just called up to replace Howard) to continue to produce enough to keep the team close in the standings (Castro has since been released). It's a raggedy platoon of troops who keeps scrapping, keeps fighting, and a pitching staff that's been short on quality starters until last week (with the addition of Roy Oswalt) and that's still short on quality relievers (if you gave Philadelphia area residents who suffer from cardiac ailments or high blood pressure and monitored them, those who are Phillies' fans would see their palpitation rate rise, their agina worse, and their blood pressure spike when Brad Lidge enters a contest.

Yet, still, they persist. They have at it, and, yes, like most teams they don't have the deepest bench or a plethora of subs at AA and AAA who can be summoned and excel. Then again, even the Yankees don't have that. But that's why in the off-season your team scrambles to fill up its AAA roster with 27 to 34 year-olds with some Major League experience, some moments of glory, some grit, just to fill in, on an occasional basis. They big clubs are looking for renters, not people to move in, but the Phillies have needed more than an occasional fill-in. They need professional hitters, big league hitters, not AAA players who will get exposed after going around the league for two weeks.

So far, so good. It helps that spiritual leader Jimmy Rollins has returned and that Ibanez and Werth have started hitting again. But make no mistake -- this lineup doesn't scare a whole lot of teams, and the Phillies will have to play ever so much better in order to tread water, let alone move forward.

It's intriguing to watch, and you have to feel for the team, the injured players and skipper Charlie Manuel. The next several weeks should tell us whether this team has enough in the tank to stay close or whether the injuries will be just too much to bear.


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