Overshadowed by the Flyers making history in their series over the Boston Bruins, the Phillies have been playing some pretty good baseball over the time span that the Orange and Black became the third team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit.
With a 22-13 overall record, the Phillies are a season-best nine games over .500, and have a three game lead in the NL East over the surprising Washington Nationals. While the second team in that equation is a surprising to say the least, I can’t say the Phillies status as being at the top of the pact is. Since May 30th of last season, there have only been three days that the Phillies have not been at the top of the divisional standings during the regular season.
Talk about dominance.
However, not all is well when it comes to the team that is about to return to Citizens Bank Park on Monday for a seven-game homestand.
From Jimmy Rollins to J.A Happ, the Phillies have been decimated with injuries this season often to say the least. On Saturday though, the Phillies injury bug reached new heights, as the organization made the move to send there first player in the 2010 season to make a return stint to the DL. After being out of action for five days because of what the Phillies would call “elbow discomfort”, much maligned closer Brad Lidge was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to his last appearance on May 10th, his second trip to the disabled list in as many months.
Tough break for big Brad. Since his return from off-season elbow surgery at the end of April, Lidge was pretty effective in his four appearances this season, posting a 2.70 ERA and one save. Most importantly though, with his increased velocity, he looked more like the Brad Lidge of 2008 than the Brad Lidge of 2009. While that was great to see, this disabled list stint will obviously stunt the confidence growth that Lidge was gaining in every single appearance, which is obviously not a good sign considering “confidence” is integral to the success of most closers in professional baseball. Just ask Byung-Hyun Kim (yes, I know, that is a name from the past).
With this newest obstacle to overcome, the Phillies are in the process of shuffling around the bullpen once again. Lidge will join fellow closer candidate Ryan Madson on the disabled list, leaving set-up man and former starter Jose Contreras as player most likely to finish out games for the Phillies. As Contreras will move into the closer role (has filled that role the last three games), Danys Baez will serve as the 8th inning man, and Chad Durbin will serve as the primary long reliever. To fill the roster spot left by Lidge, Phillies brought up Antonio Bastardo from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, who has actually has sub 2.00 ERA (1.69) in 13 appearances with Philadelphia this season. If Contreras fails, or Lidge ends up on the DL for more than 15 days, look for the Phillies to also to bring up Scott Mathieson from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Mathieson, a former big leaguer who seems to have fully recovered from two Tommy John surgeries, is a perfect 5 for 5 in save opportunities (Pigs haven’t been in many situations for Mathieson to close out games lately) this season with a stunning 0.54 ERA.
While Mathieson may be big league ready, lets hope it doesn’t get far enough where he has to prove that just yet.
: Jimmy Rollins may be back in a Phillies uniform before the conclusion of this coming homestand, which ends May 23rd. Huge boost to the offense clearly. However, if Shane Victorino keeps on hitting like this out of the leadoff spot ( .318, 3 HR, 10 RBI’s in the last 10 games), could the Phillies possibly place Rollins somewhere else in the order when he comes back?
: Speaking of Shane Victorino, who would of thought that on May 16th, he would lead the Phillies in RBI’s and would be second on the team in HR’s? Crazy.
: Looks like #1 Phillies prospect Dominic Brown is starting to come alive. 6 HR’s in 11 games. That’s going to generate some buzz, especially around July 31st (MLB Trade Deadline).
: Former Phillies fan favorite (for some) Pat Burrell was designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. How the mighty have fallen..
For a guy who averaged 30 HR’s for his last four seasons in Philadelphia, he’s really struggling at the plate (.202 BA with the Rays this year). . However, for a figure around league minimum, I’d sign him to sit on the Phillies bench. Even though he wouldn’t do much for the team at the plate or in the field ( Pat the Bat if you remember was never known for his fielding), bringing him back to the City of Brotherly Love would for sure make a so-far tame season for the Phillies a little bit more exciting for a variety of reasons.
UPDATED (Sunday 11:07 PM)
Looks like Jimmy Rollins has a new clean bill of health, or will shortly. The former MVP and Phillies starting SS is heading back to Philadelphia Sunday night after his rehab stint with Single-A Clearwater was deemed complete. While he may not be activated for the start of the 7-game homestand (Monday against the Pirates), it looks like J-Roll’s return to the club will be sooner rather than later. If Rollins is not activated right away, a likely possibility is him making one more rehab appearance in Lehigh Valley (their homestand starts Tuesday), and if that goes well, J-Roll’s return to Citizens Bank Park will be on Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs. If he is activated right away, I am assuming he will pick up right where he left off, playing SS and hitting leadoff when the Phillies take the field on Monday, even though Shane Victorino has been hitting at a torrid pace out of the leadoff spot lately (look at the stats above).
Call me crazy, but I would say there is a 50/50 shot right now J-Roll plays on Monday. I am no betting expert, but I just thought I’d throw it out there..
For more news on J-Roll, read David Murphy’s “High Cheese” blog.