There are a number of reasons Phillies fans might be a bit concerned before pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla. for Spring Training this Saturday.
Well, Phillies fans shouldn’t worry, at least according to former closer and MLB Network analyst Mitch Williams. The man known as “Wild Thing” is optimistic about the defending NL East champions’ chances.
Metro: How do you think the Phillies will do this year?
MW: I see another 100-plus win season. I see another division title. They have that pitching staff and if that rotation isn’t the best in the game, it’s among the best. I believe Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, will pitch as well as expected. I think the bullpen will be fine.
Metro: The Phillies’ offense is going to need a boost without Ryan Howard. Can John Mayberry Jr. pick up some of the slack?
MW: I really believe that he can. I think he’s going to be just like Jayson Werth when he broke out with the Phillies a couple of years ago. I think he’s a late bloomer. He has power. I think he can be a 30-homer guy and drive in a lot of runs and perhaps make up a good bit of the loss of Howard. I think he finally came into his own last season. He certainly has the tools. I told Charlie [Manuel] that if you put this kid in, he could really produce — especially since he’s a smart kid who listens to Charlie, who knows something about hitting.
Metro: You’ve always liked Charlie. How integral is he to success of the team?
MW: I think Charlie is huge for this team. He knows how to get the most of all of his players. My 16-year-old son could manage a major-league game strategically, but Charlie manages 25 different personalities better than anyone. That’s big. Some need pats on the back and others need a kick in the butt. He is part of why they’ve been so successful since he’s been manager. There are some concerns, but I think you have to like more than you don’t like with this team.
Metro: The offense hasn’t come through in the clutch in the playoffs in 2010 and 2011. Can a lineup that is primarily the same come through this postseason?
MW: I think so. I believe this team has the ability to hit in the playoffs. I still believe Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins can drive in runs at the most important time of the year. They did it in 2008 and 2009.
Metro: How do you explain the last two postseasons?
MW: I think the Phillies’ offense was really pressing the last two seasons. They were trying too hard. I think they can still do it and I think you’ll have the chance to see that this postseason.