The first reaction to the news that Cliff Lee was placed on the 15-day disabled list, is to panic. However, that is the last thing the Philadelphia Phillies and its fans should do. Although it does not help the team, they have already been through a similar situation with their other ace Cole Hamels. Before Hamels debuted on April 23, the Phillies went 10-10, managing to not fall too far behind the rest of the division early in the season. However, things are better set up for the Phillies to fair better without an ace this time.
The team has mostly hovered around .500 for the season, and with Lee now out for at least two weeks, things will likely remain the same. However, quite a few things are different for the Phillies than when they were without Hamels, which could leave the Phillies in a better position once Lee returns. One such area where things are different for the Phillies is center field. Ben Revere began the year as the starter in center field, but lately he has sat out games in favor or Tony Gwynn Jr. Gwynn not only plays better defense than Revere, making a spectacular play in Tuesday’s game, but also has a better on-base percentage of .296 to Revere’s .284. This is despite hitting .180 compared to Revere’s average of .268.
The Phillies’ bullpen is by no means one of the best, but there is reason that it should be trusted more than when the team was without Hamels. One reason for that is Jake Diekman. Diekman struggled in March/April, heading into May with a 7.30 ERA. However, he seems to have figured what was causing his struggles at the start of the season. In the month of May, Diekman has only given up four hits, and has yet to give up any runs. He also is only 6 strikeouts from matching his March/April total of 20, and should be taking over the setup man spot from Antonio Bastardo, who has struggled this season. Having Diekman in the setup spot would give the team a strong back of the bullpen, with a stellar Jonathan Papelbon. Needless to say it would make fans feel less uneasy than when Bastardo enters the game late.
The upcoming schedule offers some reprieve for the Phillies as well. After finishing up against the Marlins, the Phillies will have an 11-game home stand where the host the Dodgers, Rockies and Mets. While the Dodgers are actually better on the road than at home, the Rockies fair much worse on the road compared to their home record. Last but not least, the Mets are the only team behind the Phillies in the division, and the team has split the season series so far. Afterwards, around the time Lee is eligible to return, the Phillies head to Washington D.C. to take on the Nationals. The Nationals may still be without stars Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman at the time, which is good news for the Phillies who took two out of three from the Nats earlier this month.
In the end, there is plenty to keep the team and fans optimistic until Lee returns. Once he does return, it will be just in time for the team to turn things on for the summer and contend for the division.