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Philadelphia Phillies: The Resurgence of Raul Ibanez

Recently voted by his peers as one of the nicest players in baseball in a Sports Illustrated poll, Raul Ibanez is the type of guy that people want to see succeed.  And he is type of player that the Philadelphia Phillies need to succeed.

But 2011 did not start out the way that either the Phillies or Ibanez had hoped.  In the month of April, Ibanez hit only .161 with 10 RBI and one home run.  His on-base percentage was .247, well below his .345 career average.

Things got so bad for Ibanez at the plate that he even endured a near record setting 0-for-35 slump.  That streak tied the second worst hitless streak for a Phillie; Joe Morgan went 0-35 in 1983 and Desi Relaford still holds the number one spot with his 0-36 in 1998.

Ibanez finally broke the streak on May 3 and has been on a tear ever since.  He is hitting .323 in May with five home runs and 15 RBI.  And the month is not over yet.

Ibanez’s resurgence is likely due to a combination of things.  According to Mandy Housenick of “The Morning Call,” he started a brand new routine this offseason with a new trainer and even a new diet.  After discovering that he had severe food allergies back in the 2009 offseason, Ibanez sought the help of a nutritionist to adjust his diet.

It turns out that the dairy and gluten allergies were causing Ibanez muscle soreness and exhaustion. Once he eliminated the allergens from his diet, Ibanez began to feel healthy again.

This discovery led Ibanez to completely change his offseason training routine after the 2010 season.  The change in both diet and exercise plans seem to be major contributing factors to his turnaround at the plate this year.

The slump in April, therefore, could be the result of Ibanez adjusting to his new routine.  If that is the case, the Phillies can look forward to a lot more production from their left fielder.

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Cliff Lee Is Not Feeling the Love from Philadelphia Phillies Bats

While Phillies fans have certainly shown their support of Cliff Lee since his return, his teammates are a bit lacking in that department. In Lee’s last three starts, the Phils have scored a grand total of one run for him.

Friday night, the huge “zero” on the board amounted to a very odd outcome. Lee struck out a career-high 16 batters in the 5-0 loss to the Braves. This tied Steve Carlton for the most strikeouts over nine innings by a lefty in Phillies history.

The third inning was not great for Lee, as he allowed three runs. But aside from that inning, Lee was lights out, keeping pace with Derek Lowe who had a no-hitter going into the seventh.

But if you allow just three runs over seven innings, you are supposed to get a win, right? Sadly, that did not happen.

The most frustrating offense came in the seventh after Shane Victorino broke up the no-hitter with a single to left. Placido Polanco knocked a ground rule double, which as the ball hopped over the fence in center, actually prevented Victorino from scoring.

With two men in scoring position and no outs, the Phillies bats failed again. Lowe left the game with an injury and Eric O’Flaherty replaced him. 

Facing O’Flaherty should have been a relief after Lowe had mowed the Phils down in six straight innings. Instead, the next three batters, Ryan Howard, Ben Francisco and Raul Ibanez, all struck out swinging. Not one of them could even make contact.

And that continues to be the Achilles heel of this team. These severe hot and cold streaks at the plate are going to catch up to the Phillies eventually. The team’s 21 wins behind a stellar pitching staff is covering the multitude of offensive sins right now. But that cannot last for long.

The Phillies bats will need to get serious very, very soon.

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MLB Trade Possibilities: 9 Teams That Will Come Calling for Prince Fielder

In his contract year, Prince Fielder will be looking to make a big impression on potential suitors this year.  He signed a $15.5 million dollar contract with the Brewers for 2011, but it is likely he will land elsewhere before the year is up as the Brewers probably cannot afford to sign him.

Also, the Brewers have been bit by the injury bug early, losing star pitcher Zack Greinke to a cracked rib shortly after they traded for him.  Another example is slugger Corey Hart, who has not played yet either after a strained oblique.

As for Fielder, in the first dozen games of the season, Fielder showed his power with three homers and 15 RBI while batting .372.  He is putting on a show that will not go unnoticed.

And there are plenty of other teams out there who will be vying for his services.

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2011 MLB Predictions: 25 Breakout Stars to Watch in 2011

Opening Day has arrived and the best part for each of the 30 major league teams is that the slate is clean.  A fresh start and renewed hope for another season have been long anticipated.

Each player looks forward to getting back on the field and setting team goals as well as personal goals.  For some, 2011 will be the perfect time to break out and show their true potential.

If the hard work and preparation pay off, these 25 players should have amazing seasons.

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Brad Lidge to Start Year on DL; Should Phillies Fans Be Worried?

With pain in his right shoulder, closer Brad Lidge will start the 2011 season on the disabled list.  With Lidge’s long history of injuries, this new issue should be a huge red light to the Phillies that Lidge’s time is close to being over.

Lidge was especially concerned with this new injury saying, “I haven’t had shoulder problems in the past.”  Although, Lidge has had surgery on both knees multiple times, elbow surgery, an oblique strain, a strained intercostal muscle and bicep tendinitis, just to name a few.

Still, Lidge entered spring training boasting that he was healthy and felt great.  Exactly when that may have changed is hard to tell.  Lidge is an eternal optimist so what he says should maybe be taken with a grain of salt.

In fact, here is a little help for those who cannot always decipher what Lidge is talking about.

The Brad Lidge Translator

Lidge Says:        I feel great.

Lidge Means:     The pain is unbearable!


Lidge Says:        I am not concerned.

Lidge Means:     I am totally freaking out here!


Lidge Says:        No need to panic.

Lidge Means:     Red alert, red alert…PANIC!!!


Lidge Says:        It is a setback.

Lidge Means:     This is the END of my career!


Lidge Says:       This is disappointing.

Lidge Means:     I am going to crawl into a hole with a vat of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and eat and cry until I vomit.


With Lidge out of the picture, closing duties will fall either to Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras.  While it is good to know the Phillies have options, this does create major issues in the bullpen.  The Phillies failed to re-sign Chad Durbin, which may come back to haunt them as they now have to rely on less experienced arms in the middle innings.

The Lidge injury is magnified when you think about the loss of Chase Utley, Domonic Brown and questions still lingering about Placido Polanco’s elbow.

So, should Phillies fans be worried?  The short answer is, not yet.

The team seems to have back-up for Utley.  Luis Castillo finally got a hit today and also walked twice while showing solid defense in the field.  Wilson Valdez continues to impress as well.

As for Brown, Ben Francisco is doing well in what may have been Brown’s spot in the outfield.  John Mayberry Jr. is also capable and the two may wind up rotating in right field.

Another good sign is that Polanco did play today in the 3-1 victory over the Braves.  Polly looked a bit tentative and was sore after the game, but he expects to play again on Sunday.  Or perhaps, much like Lidge, I am being a tad too optimistic about all this?  I hope not.

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Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training: Sizing Up the Potential 2011 Roster

As spring training winds down with under two weeks to go, the Phillies 2011 roster is starting to come into focus.  The chart on the bottom right is a look at 24 of the 25 available roster spots as they may unfold.

The list right now has 12 pitchers, although the Phillies could add David Herndon and go with 13.  Kyle Kendrick has not had a good spring, but the Phils are paying him too much to send him back to Triple-A.  It could happen, as Herndon has been pretty good, but it is unlikely.

What is more probable is that the Phillies will choose to carry an extra infielder or utility player because of the Chase Utley situation.  Odds are very good that Utley will start the season on the disabled list with Wilson Valdez filling in at second base.  However, this still leaves an extra roster spot open.

The list above includes Michael Martinez, who has played well enough to earn a spot and he plays multiple positions.  Plus, Martinez is a Rule 5 player.  If the Phillies do not put him on the roster, they have to offer him back to the Nationals.  With the way Martinez has played, the Nationals would probably take him back.

Also on the list is John Mayberry Jr. who is batting .319 with five home runs so far this spring.  He is also very versatile and can play first base, as well as the outfield.

That leaves one bench spot for either Pete Orr, Josh Barfield or Delwyn Young.  Barfield has been very good at the plate, hitting .355 with three doubles and a triple.  He is also speedy, which is a plus.

But Barfield’s main weakness appears to be defense.  While he has not committed any “official” errors, Barfield has fumbled the ball more than once.  In Saturday’s matchup with the Orioles, Barfield dropped an easy double play ball, did not get any outs and left Cole Hamels hanging.  Hamels was having a rough day to begin with, so this did not help.

As for Orr, he is experienced and can play second, third and a little outfield.  Orr is batting .343 with three doubles and three triples this spring.  Orr also strikes out less than Barfield and Young, but his fielding is average.

That leaves Young, who is intriguing because he can play almost anywhere.  However, his fielding is not very good.  A lifetime .258 hitter, Young is batting .298 with one home run, seven RBI and two doubles this spring.  He is probably the least likely to make the team.

However, there are still nine games left in Florida and two exhibition games in Philadelphia before the season begins.  Each player still has time to make a big push towards earning a roster spot.

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MLB Power Rankings: Albert Pujols and the Most Entrenched Star on Each Team

Most teams have that one special player who stands out.  Fans recognize them, and teammates count on them to come through in tough situations.

Some players become popular just because they have been around a long time.  Others are appreciated for their great play and many accolades.  And others encompass the total package with great offense, defense and a good public image.

Albert Pujols is a great example of a franchise player.  After 10 years in St. Louis, multiple honors and awards and his overall performance, Pujols represents Cardinals baseball.

The following is a list of each team’s most entrenched star player.

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Cortisone Injection for Chase Utley Is Bad News for the Philadelphia Phillies

About a week ago, a MRI revealed that Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley had patellar tendinitis in his right knee.  He was prescribed rest and expected to show improvement quickly.

But after a full week of rest, Utley reported that he did not feel any better.  So today, he was given a cortisone injection in an attempt to reduce the swelling.

The quiet and reserved Utley normally says very little in regards to his physical condition.  But in an interview today with Phillies beat-writer, Todd Zolecki, Utley said, ” There is a little bit of concern.”

Knowing Utley’s usual demeanor, to hear him utter the words “a little bit of concern,” is akin to a normal person shouting, “Fire! Fire!” and sounding a very loud alarm.  This is not good news.

Worse than Utley’s own words is the fact that a cortisone injection was needed.  If a week of rest did nothing to alleviate the pain, one could speculate that the condition is more serious than originally diagnosed.

Patellar tendinitis can lead to small tears in the tendons over time and weakening or tears of the knee cartilage.  If that occurs, surgery may be needed.  The minimum recovery time of such a surgery is usually at least six months.

While that may be jumping ahead a just a tad, the reality is that a cortisone injection to the knee is very bad news.  Any swelling that cannot be reduced by rest indicates a real problem.

Should the Phillies sound the alarm and start looking for help at second base?  It may be too early for that, however, it also could not hurt to have a back-up plan.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Domonic Brown and the Invisible Battle for Right Field

After Jayson Werth’s departure, a seriously intense battle was expected to ensue this spring over the right field starting position.  However, the first few weeks have been a total disappointment for Phillies‘ top prospect, Domonic Brown.

In 15 spring at-bats so far, Brown has come up with a great big, ugly goose egg.  Eight of his 15 unsuccessful attempts were strikeouts.  Brown is swinging at balls and watching the good pitches fly by as he continues to tinker with his mechanics.

In the meantime, Ben Francisco is quietly ripping the cover off the ball.  Francisco has tallied eight hits, five RBI and one home run while batting .375.  He is wiping the field with Brown to point where it is no longer even a contest.

But for Brown, this is actually not a sudden decline in performance.  He hit only .069 in nine games during the Dominican Winter League.  Before that, Brown averaged .210 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 35 games with the Phillies big league club.

Essentially, Brown has been in a slump since August of 2010, nearly eight months.  And this happened after he hit .346 in 28 games with Lehigh Valley.  His combined minor league average for 2010 was .327 with 20 home runs and 68 RBI over 93 total games.

Most people love a good train wreck, but for Phillies fans, this has been hard to watch.

Brown is the kind of home-grown player that every team strives to produce.  Much like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, he represents the best of an organization’s farm system.

To see Brown fail now, after all the hype and all the expectations, would simply be a punch in the gut to the Phillies organization.

So while the battle for the right field position may be over, the fight for Brown’s redemption is just beginning.

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2011 MLB Predictions: Who’ll Top NL in Each Main Statistical Category?

As spring training moves forward, teams are slowly beginning to see what the future may hold. As the anticipation of a new baseball season grows, so do the expectations for each individual player.

Team leaders, league leaders, MVPs and Cy Young winners alike will be heavily favored to repeat their successful seasons. However, a strong performance in 2010 does not necessarily ensure the same in 2011.

With a plethora of talent in the National League, who will come out on top of each major statistical category remains to be seen. However, we can make some pretty good educated guesses.

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