So far, the month of April has been unkind to the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans. Sometimes it feels as if it’s just the two of you against the world. It could make the more faint-hearted lose hope.
Never fear. If April is the tease for warmer weather, then May is the long-awaited payoff. There’s a certain buoyancy in the air. Rather than despair, it’s worth a hopeful glance ahead to the blooming month of May.
As the flowers at Citizen’s Bank Park spring into blossom so does the annual process where Phillie players shake off early season doldrums and find a more relaxed and productive symmetry. For example…
Carlos Ruiz. That name alone is enough to bring smiles to the drenched and shivering faces of Phillie nation. His extended spring training is about to end. Just in time.
Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero have done their best to fill the void created by Ruiz’s absence. But, they’re not capable of injecting the daily stability and astute pitcher management that Chooch provides. Nor do they contribute the much-needed offensive power that comes with Ruiz’s bat.
Ryan Howard is so slow to start. Maybe a large man like Howard takes longer to warm-up. If so, he’s had his kindling time. Assuming it’s going to happen, May is Howard’s launching pad. The Phils can wait no longer.
Chase Utley. He seems distracted. Plays he would normally make with his eyes closed have caused him to falter. Given the pressure and elevated expectations over the status of his knees, it’s no wonder he’s had trouble focusing.
Yet, he’s performed admirably and kept the Phillies viable as contenders, albeit, barely. Knee questions answered; time to move forward with confidence.
Reuben Amaro Jr./Outfield. Asking Freddy Galvis, a natural infielder, to play the outfield demonstrates the mess in CBP’s outfield. If the Phils are going to become serious competition for an NL East division crown, Amaro must do something in May to strengthen the outfield.
Waiting and hoping that Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr. turn into the Upton brothers is like hoping Laynce Nix becomes the next Bryce Harper. Dream on.
If Amaro waits until summer to move on this predicament, it will be a long and frustrating season. At this point, who wouldn’t exchange Brown, Mayberry, Nix and Ben Revere for Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and any one of a half-dozen free agents who signed elsewhere?
Roy Halladay. The success of the Phillies in 2013 depends on Halladay shaking off the frost of winter. Even if he’s a mere replica of his former self, his presence is crucial.
May is his month. If his recent outings are any indication, he may just be warming to the task. The rest of the staff leaves many questions unanswered but the replacement buds are sprouting down on the farm. The soil there is fertile and holds the promise of a bumper crop of young pitchers.
It’s time. No more feeling cold, wet and alone. Bring on the crowds. May could be the start of a new season.