5 questions to ponder about the Phillies

Brad Lidge had offseason arthroscopic surgeries on his knee and elbow.
Brad Lidge had offseason arthroscopic surgeries on his knee and elbow.
Posted: February 17, 2010

1. The wounded are walking - when will they pitch?

It's easy to forget that 1 year ago this month, Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero and Jamie Moyer entered spring training having combined to go 22-11 with a 3.17 ERA, 42 saves and 24 holds the year before while pitching 22 percent of the Phillies' total innings.

Nobody could have envisioned that at the dawn of 2010, they represent the three biggest question marks on the pitching staff. All three are questionable for Opening Day, although the feeling inside the organization is that Moyer and Romero are far more questionable than Lidge.

Nevertheless, Lidge is the headliner, thanks to his shocking plummet from Team MVP in 2008 (41-for-41 in saves during the regular season with a 1.95 ERA) to liability in 2009 (11 blown saves, 7.21 ERA), as well as the $23 million owed to him over the next 2 years.

Lidge has said he is confident that arthroscopic surgeries on his knee and elbow have eliminated the problems that plagued him. More murkier are the situations facing Romero and Moyer.

Romero had surgery in early October to repair the flexor tendon in his pitching arm. A return to full strength could give the Phillies a pair of dynamic power lefties in the bullpen, Romero teaming with up-and-comer Antonio Bastardo. But Romero's surgery was more serious than Lidge's, and his timetable for recovery is more unclear. Missing upward of the first month of the season is not out of the question. And even when he returns, Romero will have to shake off the rust from his forgotten 2009 season, when he pitched just 16 2/3 innings thanks to a 50-game suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test and his frequent bouts with elbow pain.

Moyer is attempting to rebound from a hellish 5 months in which he had one surgery to repair torn tendons in his groin and abdomen, another to repair a meniscus, and was hospitalized two other times - one for a blood infection, another for recurring pain in his surgically repaired midsection.

Even if healthy, he isn't a lock for a roster spot.

2. Speaking of which, who is No. 5?

Judging by comments made by general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who said he sees an Opening Day return as "aggressive" (read: unlikely), Moyer probably won't enter the season in the rotation. But there aren't a ton of options behind him: Righthander Kyle Kendrick, fresh off a season in the minors, is the front-runner. Fellow righty Andrew Carpenter also could contend, along with former Pirates starter Ryan Vogelsong.

3. How will Cole Hamels change?

We don't necessarily buy the conventional wisdom that the secret to a rebound season for the young lefty lies in his ability to develop a cutter. Hamels has a good curveball - his problem is consistency. Look for him to tinker with his fastball to try to provide hitters with different looks. But expect him to devote even more attention to his curve. And know this: Even if he doesn't make great strides with either, he is still a formidable top-of-the-rotation starter who, if healthy, has a good chance to shrug off some of the bad luck that plagued him last season.

4. What roles will Greg Dobbs and Ross Gload play?

The Phillies could have used another righthanded bat on the bench to complement Ben Francisco - utility man Juan Castro is a defense-first player in the Eric Bruntlett mold. Instead, they got Gload, who is a lefthanded infielder/outfielder like Dobbs. Gload has a good track record as a pinch-hitter. Dobbs thrived in that role in 2007 and 2008 before struggling last season. It will be interesting to see what role each player works himself into during the spring.

5. Who's on third?

Placido Polanco, for the first time since 2005. The Phillies seem confident the Gold Glover will make the switch from second with ease.

Still, it will be worth watching, particularly after two seasons of stellar defense from Pedro Feliz.

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