It has been two seasons since the Philadelphia Phillies have been to the postseason, and with the window for the current core players to win another Word Series barely open, the time is now to make it back to the playoffs. The season so far has been up and down, with the team’s record sitting at 6-6 after sweeping the Miami Marlins. This was of course after the Phillies were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers the previous series. Now more than ever is the time during this young season for the Phillies to turn things around. In order for them to do this and once again return to the postseason, here are a few things that the Phillies need to do.
Tighten up the bullpen
The last few seasons have not been pleasant ones for the Phillies’ bullpen. The bullpen pitchers have fluctuated the past few seasons, but Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo remain the two of the top guys. Bastardo greatly struggled in 2012, and appeared to turn things around last season before being suspended 50 games. So far this season Bastardo has performed, with a 2.84 ERA in 6.1 innings pitched. It is obviously too early to determine how Bastardo will perform this season, but so far he has done his job. After an ugly blown save against the Texas Rangers, Jonathan Papelbon has seemingly gotten things back under control. Against the Marlins today, Papelbon had a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his 3rd straight save. With Papelbon and Bastardo having to seemingly gotten things in order, the success of the Phillies bullpen falls on some other key pitchers.
Jake Diekman has the looks to be a strong left-handed arm in the pen, and Mike Adams appears to be ready to return at the start of the week. Meanwhile the team has taken care of struggling pitchers. Brad Lincoln was sent down to the minors in favor of starter Jonathan Pettibone, meanwhile struggling righthander Justin De Fratus was sent down in favor of reliever Luis Garcia. This shows that the team is willing to hold its players accountable.
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Chase Utley remains the man
Chase Utley has been one of the hottest hitters in the league to start the season. It brings back memories of when Utley used to be a perennial MVP candidate for the Phillies before his knee troubles began. His batting average this early season is .500 to go along with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs. He is simply the team’s offensive leader and has helped to keep the team in most of their games. At this rate he will be an all-star, and the Phillies need him to be one. With a revitalized Utley, playing as he once did before, the lineup will have a much needed spark that it has sorely been missing the past few seasons.
Good health for all
It goes without saying that health is important to any team that hopes to make the playoffs. However, with how the Phillies past few seasons have gone, and their dependance on their aging core, they need it more than anyone. In some cases it is not a matter of staying healthy, but that players are fully recovered from past injuries. Ryan Howard is the biggest example of this, as a full recovery from his torn Achilles’ Tendon from 2011, and his torn meniscus last season would give the Phillies the power bat they have missed since 2011. While the team did start the season with seven players on the disabled list, they are slowly getting them back, and have avoided injuries to active players (knocks on wood). A.J. Burnett recently left a start early, but there is optimism he will not miss much time.
After all, in the words of the late great Harry Kalas, the best thing for the Phillies to have in this young season is high hopes.
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