The Phillies regular season begins in less than one week, and eyebrows are being raised at the number of injuries the team has already sustained this spring.
Chase Utley is the organization’s biggest concern, as evidenced by the decision to sign Luis Castillo to a conditional contract. It was announced Thursday that Utley will begin the season on the disabled list after struggling to rehab his knee. No suprise there but the four-time Silver Slugger leaves a substantial hole in the lineup, and a noticeable defensive gap on the field. If surgery is in his future, it would be his third in four years.
Ruben Amaro, Jr. confirmed that Brad Lidge will begin the season on the disabled list as well. Another repeat D-Lister, Lidge underwent elbow surgery in November 2009 and sat out much of the first half last season. He was sidelined for two weeks with bicep tendinitis this spring, and word of his new shoulder pain has the club worried. Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras are Lidge’s more obvious successors, but Charlie Manuel prefers not to name a closer just yet.
Placido Polanco has been plagued with elbow troubles ever since Tim Hudson hit him with a pitch last April. He played through the pain for most of 2010 and had surgery in the off-season to remove bone chips and repair his exterior tendon. On March 15, Polanco exited a game early with a hyperextended left elbow. He made his return to the lineup on Friday, but is still experiencing soreness. He will rest on Saturday and is expected to play the rest of the way, but it remains to be seen if this is going to be a persistent setback.
Domonic Brown is working his way back from surgery to remove the fractured part of the hamate bone in his right hand. Brown was named Baseball America’s No. 4 prospect for 2011 and was being looked at to fill Jayson Werth’s vacation spot in right field. If he does not experience any setbacks in his recovery, he should be swinging a bat again at full power within a few weeks, but the Phillies are working overtime trying to find the best fit for his position. Ben Francisco, John Mayberry, Jr. and Ross Gload are the top contenders for the job.
Roy Oswalt and Jose Contreras thankfully appear to be fine after their recent mishaps. Oswalt was struck behind the ear by a line drive off Manny Ramirez’s bat Wednesday, and Contreras returned to action Friday after suffering from a corneal abrasion earlier in the week.
The good news is that the season has yet to begin, so hopefully the more severe injuries can be dealt with sooner rather than later. The bad news is the Phillies have the oldest team in baseball (even without Jamie Moyer on the roster), and many of the players will be battling the ailments that come with aging for the remainder of the season and their careers. If the squad can prepare for the worst ahead of time, they have a chance at not letting their shiny and new pitching rotation go to waste.