The Phillies this year are another year older, and another year removed from their 2008 World Series Championship. Many of the 2008 squad's roster are still intact, but the window is closing fast on making it back with the same core group of players. Charlie Manuel is back at the helm of the club once again this year, and thinks that this group has what it takes to compete for another NL East title this year.
The Phillies have started Grapefruit League play in Florida for spring training, and are currently 1-2. They play the Minnesota Twins today in Fort Myers where John Lannan will take the mound for the first time in a Phillie uniform. The other Phillies pitchers have started to get back into form, and Roy Halladay faced off against Cy Young winner Justin Verlander on Sunday afternoon. Halladay had been battling injuries all of last season, and pitched through shoulder issues in route to one of his more forgettable seasons in the MLB. Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have looked solid in the few innings they have pitched so far this year, while closer Jonathan Papelbon has struggled to find his velocity and location although him and Manuel both made it clear they aren't worried this soon into spring training.
If most of the Phillies lineup can stay healthy for the majority of the year, they will be able to hang with just about anyone. Chase Utley is participating in his first spring training in two years and says he "feels good" overall. Ryan Howard looks like he is swinging the bat nicely, and has fully recovered from his achilles tendon injury suffered in the 2011 playoffs. Newcomers Ben Revere, Michael Young and Delmon Young will be looked upon to help knock in some more runs this year for a club that ranked 19th a year ago in runs per game. Outfielder Dominic Brown had a nice homerun against the New York Yankees earlier this week, and will be a huge part of the next infusion of young players to come through the organization.
The pitching staff is arguably one of the best in baseball with a rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Kendrick and Lannan. Newcomer Mike Adams is now the top reliever on the roster followed by Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes, Chad Durbin and Jeremy Horst. The closing role is left for Jonathan Pabelbon, who did well last year for the most part. The new-look outfield will have Dom Brown in left, Ben Revere in center and Delmon Young in right field. Young showed up to spring training with quite a few pounds shed which is an incentive in his contract if he can lose weight, and definitely should help the Phillies both offensively and defensively if he is in great shape heading into opening day.
Overall, this Phillies squad's average age is 28 years old. They are one of the older teams in baseball, and play in one of the hardest division's in baseball as well. The Washington Nationals absolutely cruised last season to the NL East crown after being the division's doormat team for a number of years until they collected a stream of younger talent. The Atlanta Braves are once again looking to make it back to the top of the division after their success for so many years and consecutive crowns under former manager Bobby Cox. The New York Mets haven't exactly been relevant in the division or in the playoff picture for the past eight years, but are looking to turn the corner under manager Terry Collins.