Phil Sheridan: Three cheers for the Phillies' walking wounded

Vance Worley delivers. With so much focus on the Phillies who are injured, little has really been said about the players who are merely hurt.
Vance Worley delivers. With so much focus on the Phillies who are injured, little has really been said about the players who are merely hurt. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer.)
Posted: June 06, 2012

Here's something to ponder while the Pony Express rider with Roy Halladay's second opinion in his satchel fights off bandits in the high desert.

Injuries have been the obvious main story in this unsettling Phillies season. That was going to be the case after Ryan Howard went down on the final play of the 2011 postseason and Chase Utley showed up in Clearwater, Fla., with creaky knees.

Now it's June, and Howard, Utley, Jim Thome, Michael Stutes, David Herndon, and Michael Martinez are in Clearwater. Halladay and Laynce Nix are around the ballpark, but unavailable. Jose Contreras blew out his elbow on Friday night. It's no wonder manager Charlie Manuel smirked a little when someone mentioned that the Los Angeles Dodgers had arrived in town with some injury problems.

"I'm not feeling sorry for them," Manuel said. "I'm not worried about their injuries, to tell you the truth."

With so much focus on the Phillies who are injured, little has really been said about the players who are merely hurt. And with so many teammates on the disabled list and unable to contribute, there is more pressure on those players to play through pain and try to salvage the season.

So there was Vance Worley, fresh off a disabled-list stint, starting Monday night against the team with the best record in the National League. Worley has bone chips in his right elbow. He will try to pitch with them for the rest of the season and deal with it afterward.

Cole Hamels did that last year and, though it required the same toughness and commitment, there was a subtle difference. The 2011 season was one long fiesta for this team, with its remarkable pitching staff and championship expectations. No one wanted to miss a minute of that 102-win regular season.

With Halladay on the DL, Joe Blanton struggling, and Kyle Kendrick locked into the rotation, Worley is the No. 3 starter right now. He is not just a pleasant surprise, as he was last year. This team is relying on him.

Worley got off to a shaky start, which is hardly surprising. He hadn't thrown a pitch in anger since May 11. The Dodgers took advantage of two walks and pounced on Worley for two runs in the first inning and another in the second. After Dee Gordon overran second and was caught stealing, though, Worley retired the next five batters and didn't give up another run.

He was bailed out in the bottom of the third by Placido Polanco, another of the hurt brigade. Polanco missed four starts in the middle of May with an ankle injury. It was merely the latest in a string of aches and pains that have plagued the 36-year-old third baseman.

With two outs and Freddy Galvis on second, Polanco worked a full count against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. He crushed the next pitch, driving it deep into the seats in left. It was Polanco's second homer of the season.

Since a slow April start, Polanco is hitting .318 with an on-base percentage of .336. After batting sixth or seventh for much of last week, Polanco was back in the No. 2 spot in Manuel's ever-changing lineup. When he is healthy, or at least able to play effectively, it is the best spot for him.

Three innings after Polanco's game-tying homer, centerfielder Shane Victorino got hold of a Kershaw pitch. He drove it high to left. Maybe too high. As Bobby Abreu zigzagged and got under it on the warning track, Victorino turned and headed for the dugout. As he did, he kept looking at his right hand, the one he had injected with cortisone last week.

Victorino said the hand had been hurting since spring training, especially when he bats lefthanded. He finally tried the cortisone shot in search of a little relief.

Did it help?

"Not really," Victorino said after returning to the lineup Saturday. The hand felt the same as it had before the shot. He would just have to keep playing through it.

For Victorino, there is even more at stake. He will be a free agent after this season. The pain in his right index finger can't be helping his production at the plate. Taking some time off and returning when he's healed might just help his market value.

There are no doubt other Phillies who are hurting, no doubt dozens of players around baseball who are playing through pain. That's as much a part of the game as pine tar and arrogant umpires. These three Phillies didn't ask for anyone's sympathy or special mention. They are pros.

But it is worth taking notice. The season has been rough without the guys who are injured. Without the guys who are hurt, and playing through it, the season would be more than rough. It would be over.


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at philly.com/philabuster and his columns at philly.com/philsheridan

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