Chase Utley’s comments are really just words until the season gets underway. However, the generally quiet second baseman feels that the Philadelphia Phillies are real contenders this upcoming year. Keep in mind that he said “contenders.” There were no guarantees of playoffs or a trip to the World Series. He is simply saying that they should be able to contend with the top teams in the National League.
It’s a good thing that Utley is not promising anything specific like the outspoken Jimmy Rollins likes to do. The Phillies ended last season with a 73-89 record, 23 games back of the first place Atlanta Braves. There is very little faith that this will look different this season. The only new face in the field is a 36-year-old right fielder by the name of Marlon Byrd.
The current roster is the same that Ruben Amaro Jr. claimed at the end of last season was not a big league lineup. This lineup includes third baseman Cody Asche and potentially Darin Ruf, both players Amaro has came out and said were not major leaguers. However, it is looking like Byrd will be playing right field instead of the younger Ruf.
The team showed glimpses of promise towards the end of last season under new manager Ryne Sandberg. But without any real major changes to the lineup that struggled to hit and a bullpen that could not keep runs off the board, the Phillies seem to be set up to disappoint once again.
There is certainly room for growth and the opportunity to surprise this season. If Utley and Howard can stay healthy, it will open up the opportunity for Dom Brown to see good pitches. Brown struggled at the plate when Howard was out of the lineup last season. Also, there is a lot expected from newly acquired starter Miguel Gonzalez. However, there are even concerns with Gonzalez and his migration to Major League Baseball.
There is promise with this team healthy. The concern, as it was last season, is the age of its “stars.” With age comes injury and the loss of that promising season. It would be good to get to see Ruf perform every day in right field, but it looks as if Amaro will not allow that to happen.
Despite Utley’s optimism, do not get your hopes up for the 2014 Phillies. They are shaping up to disappoint once again.