Phil Sheridan: Phils still able despite being disabled

Posted: August 11, 2010

As the Phillies regroup for another run at the World Series, one thing seems all but certain. The Los Angeles Dodgers won't be around to reprise their role as playoff foil.

Tuesday night's Kyle Kendrick howler notwithstanding, the Dodgers' visit to Citizens Bank Park should help give nervous fans some perspective on just what the Phillies are accomplishing this year. Faced with a string of injuries, the Dodgers are in fourth place in the National League West.

And it's not just the Dodgers. The Phillies have faced three NL teams on their way to consecutive World Series. L.A. is scuffling along. Milwaukee ('08 division series) is 11 games out in the NL Central. Colorado ('09 division series) is in third place in the NL West.

Remember how the Cubs were the perceived hot team before losing to the Dodgers in the '08 division series? They are dead in the water now.

The point is that it's very difficult to stay on top, year in and year out. There are so many variables, so much uncertainty. And yet here the Phillies are, in spite of a disabled list as crowded as Old City on a Friday night.

Somehow, this team has found its extra gear as always, even without all cylinders firing.

Like the Phillies, the Dodgers have an injured starting outfielder whose status is creating a bit of a stir. Manny Ramirez has a calf injury that has kept him out of the lineup for three weeks. Given his age, that's probably not completely out of the realm of the ordinary. Given his Manny-ness, though, it has people wondering if Ramirez has simply bailed on this team the way he bailed on the Red Sox two years ago.

That is not the kind of problem the Phillies have, and that says something about their ability to keep it together as teammates continue dropping.

Look around and Chase Utley is in the dugout in full uniform every night. He takes groundballs and throws with his repaired thumb before each game. He is driven to get back in time to have an impact on the NL East race. Same with Ryan Howard and his sprained ankle.

Centerfielder Shane Victorino, who started a rehab stint at Lehigh Valley on Tuesday night, is the outfielder whose status creates a problem for the Phillies. Instead of wondering whether he cares to play, though, the Phillies have to decide how to fit him on their active roster.

More specifically, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel have to decide whether to send rookie Domonic Brown back to the minor leagues on Friday.

This is not a terrible problem to have.

If Raul Ibanez were still in his early-season slump, there would be no problem. But Ibanez is red hot. If Jayson Werth weren't hitting .301, there would be no problem. But he is. If Victorino weren't an integral part of the Phillies' success the last few seasons, there would be no problem. But he has been.

Remember, we're not talking about 2011 and beyond. The future is Brown's. We're talking about the heat of a pennant race. Those other guys have been through what's coming, and they've delivered.

"We signed those guys and we pay them money," Manuel said. "They're our regular players. Saying because a guy gets hurt, he loses his job? I don't think that happens in baseball very much."

It might actually be good for Brown's long-term development to take a breather, reflect on what he learned during his stint in the majors and get his stroke back in preparation for a September call-up.

Then again, the Phillies have 13 pitchers on the roster after calling up Antonio Bastardo. They could drop one of them. Bastardo and David Herndon all but volunteered to make room for Brown with their outings Tuesday night.

Looking ahead, the Phillies will reap some benefits because of the way they approached their injury epidemic. Amaro's decision to focus on a starting pitcher at the trade deadline instead of a short-term fix in the lineup netted the team Roy Oswalt. His nifty acquisition of Mike Sweeney will pay extra dividends when Howard and then Utley return to the lineup.

"I feel like when we get everybody healthy, our bench is going to be as strong as it's been all year," Manuel said.

Sweeney, Brown, Brian Schneider, Ross Gload, Greg Dobbs, and Wilson Valdez give the Phillies some options for that bench, which becomes even more vital in the postseason. And all of them should benefit from the extra playing time they've gotten because of injuries.

With 50 games left, the Phillies are in position to make a fourth consecutive run at the postseason. They are in familiar territory, even if they don't see any familiar faces once they get there.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or Read his recent work at

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