Assuming Polanco is ready for the opener, then you're looking at shortstop Jimmy Rollins leading off, Shane Victorino batting second, Raul Ibanez hitting third, Ryan Howard batting fourth, and Polanco hitting fifth.
The order of those five is probably subject to change depending on whom the opposition is pitching on any given day, but regardless of who moves where, we know one man is not going anywhere: Howard will be the cleanup hitter.
The former NL MVP has performed that job as well as anyone in franchise history the last four years, averaging 43 home runs and 133 RBIs since 2007. He took over the role from Pat Burrell in the middle of 2006, and there is no indication that he is going to relinquish it in the near future.
The least productive of Howard's seasons from the cleanup spot came a year ago when he batted .276 with 31 home runs and 108 RBIs. Given the departure of Jayson Werth via free agency and the uncertainty about when we'll see Utley again, it's fair to wonder how much impact the loss of the team's Nos. 3 and 5 hitters will have on the most productive man in the middle of the lineup.
A National League scout said that the pressure valve gets turned up more on Howard than on any other player in the absence of Utley and Werth.
"He's not going to see many pitches to hit," the scout said. "He's going to have to be patient. Things have become real interesting."
That's a valid point, and one worth examining more closely given that we have a small sampling of what Howard's life was like last season without Utley hitting in front of him.
Somebody other than Utley hit in front of Howard 42 times, and the first baseman batted .288 with five doubles, two triples, nine home runs, and 34 RBIs in those games. Howard walked 11 times and struck out 45 times. The batting average was 12 points higher than his average for the season, and the power numbers were slightly better.
After contributing an RBI double Tuesday, Howard seemed unconcerned about who bats around him and said he should not have any problem being patient.
"Not if you're on and if you're feeling good," he said. "That's just stuff I don't even really think about. I just live in the moment of the game and try to do what I can."
The unknown here is what happens when you take Utley and Werth out of the lineup. Howard dealt with that scenario just nine times last season and hit .185 (5 for 27) with one double, one home run, and six RBIs in those games. That, however, is too small of a sample to draw any conclusions.
Howard does not think it makes much difference who is hitting third and fifth because the opposing team's plan of attack will be similar.
"Teams have their game plans for everybody, and they are going to pitch me a certain way," he said. "They'll want me to try and chase pitches and they'll try not to give me an opportunity to beat them."
Howard admitted that it helps some when the guy directly in front of him and the guy directly behind him are hot, but he thinks it might be even more important that the top-two guys - Rollins and Victorino - consistently reach base.
"If you have Shane and Jimmy on base and they're making things happen, I might be prone to seeing a few more fastballs," Howard said.
"I think that's how we accumulate runs, by manufacturing runs that way," the manager said. "If we always have those guys on the bases, they're a threat to run, so he's going to see more fastballs. That's only logical and that's also big."
Manuel also said after his team's 13-7 win over Toronto that he is starting to warm to the idea of Ibanez's hitting third in Utley's absence. It didn't hurt that Ibanez had two hits, including an opposite-field home run, against the Blue Jays.
The manager said his fifth hitter ideally will be a righthanded bat.
"We can't just be throwing three or four lefthanded hitters up there in a row, because late in the game that will give managers more of a way to handle our team," Manuel said.
Howard is right about how opposing teams will pitch to him this season. How he handles it will determine whether the Phillies can meet their World Series expectations, and that's pressure even if he says he doesn't feel it.
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.