The 2011 Phillies have already taken us on a wild ride of emotions this year. And the season starts this afternoon.
The Phillies allegedly won the World Series that Monday evening in
Decemeber when word broke that Cliff Lee was returning to Philadelphia
to pitch for a team he enjoyed and a city his family loves. That was
months before the Fightins became the dregs of the NL East through a
deluge of spring training injuries. Dom Brown's career was over before
it started, they said. Chase Utley's career as an All-Star is finished,
they said. Brad Lidge's arm fell off, allegedly. Placido Polanco's elbow
bends funny. The Phillie Phanatic is so stressed his fur has turned a
funny shade of red. Etcetera, etcetera.
Okay, so most of that is a gross exaggeration, but the Phillies do
have a number of questions marks leading into the most highly
anticipated Phillies season of most of our lives.
"Gotta change those question marks into exclamation marks," says Charlie Manuel.
And that's why the play 'em.
Their understated right fielder was beaming on Tuesday evening when
informed he'd get the opening day start in right and a chance to earn
the everyday role. All Ben Francisco was looking for was an opportunity
to show what he's capable of, and now he's got it. Time to execute, and
despite spring numbers being spring numbers, he showed Charlie Manuel
and the rest of the Phillies something at the plate down in Florida.
Wilson Valdez returns to a role he filled adequately last season. He
wasn't flashy at all, and despite being a GDP machine, he was enough of a
stop gap to get this team to the postseason.
Here's your opening day lineup for your Fightin Phils.
As for the opposition today, its the Ed Wade built Houston Astros,
featuring an ex-Phillies opening day starter on the mound in the form of
Brett Myers. The very improved Michael Bourn is the stir to their mock
Philly cocktail and Chris Wheeler's favorite goofy player, Hunter Pence,
bats third in their order.
Of course, Houston doesn't have one of the most potentially
devastating rotations in baseball history. If the Phillies can get
enough out of their lineup until Chase returns (if Chase returns), this
team should return to the postseason. As least season showed us, if you
can get there, it's a whole new ball game. I don't think any Philly fan
would bet against this team, with this rotation, in the playoffs.
But that's months away, with 162 games to be played before they get there. It all starts today.
The snow that turned to rain that turned to drizzle appears to have
stopped for warms ups. No matter. The Doc operates in all types of
Happy Baseball, Philadelphia.