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The Skipper Is Not Chipper

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    Concerns? Phils' skipper Charlie Manuel has a few.

    Charlie Manuel is worried.

    The Phillies skipper, who is looking to lead his team to their sixth-straight National League East title in 2012, doesn't sound like a manager who set a franchise record for wins in a season last year in a recent column by CSN.com's Jim Salisbury.

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    He talked about the team's health, their defense (or lack thereof), and Antonio Bastardo's velocity as his chief concerns with a little more than two weeks left to go until the start of the season.

    It could just be the nerves of a man who is watching the rest of the division get better while his team is only getting older. It could be the pressure of an increasingly growing fan base, who are craving another title. Or it could be that, well, he has a reason to be nervous.

    Because, truth be told, I'm nervous, too. Probably for the first time since before their recent run of success began in 2007, I've got reservations about how they are going to do this season. It's weird, because their pitching staff is head and shoulders above the rest of the National League, and their offense is good enough, and they aren't all that much different from the record-setting team of 2011.

    Except, for the part where the team is a walking MASH unit. That could be problematic, I suppose.

    With the season right around the corner, the Phillies have a lot more questions than they have answers: When will Ryan Howard be able to take that boot off? When will Chase Utley get into a spring training game? Is Placido Polanco able to make it through an entire season? Is Jimmy Rollins going to live up to his contract? Can the pitching rotation stay healthy to keep the team in games? Will Domonic Brown ever learn to play left field?

    It's a lot for one man to take on, especially when there are no clear answers or solutions. And the fact that the Opening Day lineup (and most thereafter) are going to be cobbled together from whatever healthy bodies Charlie can find certainly doesn't make life any easier.

    However, this is nothing new for Charlie or the Phillies, who have been behind the eight-ball more than once since they won the division crown in 2007. There have always been injuries, personnel problems, or offensive woes, but its never derailed the team to any significant degree.

    But, with an increased level of competition in the division -- specifically, that of the always dangerous Florida Marlins and the sneakily improved Washington Nationals -- the Phillies might have their work cut out for them.

    And that is reason enough to be nervous.