Spring training preview: Phillies open 2013 with question marks

San Francisco Giants v Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, if they can stay healthy, will be counted on to lead the Phillies in 2013. Sound familiar?

If it feels like it’s been an eternity since the Phillies hit the diamond, well, Charlie Manuel’s squad didn’t play a meaningful game in October. Some might argue that the club didn’t play a significant game since May but that’s another story.

You can forget about the miserable 2012 season since pitchers and catchers reported Tuesday. Still, there are just as many questions as there are answers in Clearwater, Fla.

» The Roy Halladay watch has commenced: There will be no Phillie under more scrutiny than Doc, who was injured and ineffective in 2012. Will Halladay rebound from a season in which he said he didn’t give the Phillies, who pay $20 million a year for his services, their money’s worth? Stay tuned.

» Will Ryan Howard rebound? The Phillies desperately need The Big Piece to rebound after struggling and rehabbing from an Achilles injury in 2012. The Phillies played at a .600 clip in the 71 games Howard played in during the second half of last season. Bet on Howard to put up some enviable numbers.

» Will Chase Utley disappear when the Grapefruit League starts? Utley was absent in March of 2011 and 2012 due to lingering knee problems. The Phillies need a productive Utley, who is in his walk year. He showed up Tuesday morning — three days before position players were required to report — and fielded groundballs. Utley looked fresh and agile in his spring training debut.

» Who will play the outfield corners? Delmon Young is apparently the front-runner for the right-field gig, but there’s a lot of time between now and Opening Day.  Charlie Manuel will undoubtedly go with the hot bat. So will that hot bat belong to Young, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf or John Mayberry Jr. when it comes to the two vacant outfield spots? First impressions begin now.

» What does Michael Young have left in the tank? There is a good chance that the most beloved player in Texas Rangers history still has it. Young is just a season removed from leading the American League in hits. The guess here is that Young, who hits line drives and possesses good plate discipline, will be immensely popular in Philly — assuming he can stay healthy and flash the leather at third base.

» Will Ben Revere adequately replace Shane Victorino in center? Revere and Vic are two very different players. Revere has no pop, but he can cover as much ground as any player not named Michael Bourn. Revere is a young Juan Pierre and under club control for cheap. Yes, all those things should excite Phillies fans.

» Is the bullpen as good as it looks on paper? That’s difficult to answer since relievers are the most volatile players on the team. However, the Phillies ’pen looks rock solid with Jonathan Papelbon as closer, Mike Adams in the eighth inning, with Antonio Bastardo and Chad Durbin stepping in to put on any fires before that. The frontrunners for the other three spots are three young relievers with considerable upside, Mike Stutes, Jeremy Horst and Jake Diekman.


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