Spring T this year, as usual, will see meaningless games pass by with outcomes that have little effect on the clubs participating. The Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays opened their spring schedules today, facing off in the first of 14 meetings which will take place between the teams before heading north for Opening Day.
Although the outcomes of the games have little meaning in the grand scheme of things, Spring Training has a much different meaning this year for a Phillies team coming off their worst performance as a group and first losing season since 2000.
While overseeing youngsters fighting to make the team, or even take their roster spots, the age-ridden Philadelphia core has plenty to prove themselves. The individual performances of the Phillies’ key pieces will be speculated about and closely monitored with each passing day. So, today’s game was not just the beginning of a Spring Training schedule, it was the start of what could be the final go-round for one of the most beloved groups in franchise history.
All eyes were focused, and it was a positive beginning for the Phillies, who demonstrated the ability to hit lefty pitching early. One of the question marks that continues to plague Philadelphia is the lefty-laden lineup which Ryne Sandberg will assemble on a daily basis. Hitting left-handed pitching right out of the gate and producing runs off major league pitching, not a prospect, can be nothing more than a positive moving forward.
Although the Phillies dropped the opener 4-3 in a rain-shortened game, the biggest news came not from the game, but from the bullpen. Garnering much of the headlines of late with shoulder discomfort, Cole Hamels left his mark on the day, throwing his first bullpen session of the season and feeling no discomfort. It is the hope that all have been searching for in the Phillies organization and hopefully a sign of what’s to come from the lefty.
Philadelphia can ill-afford to lose one of its most reliable arms if they are going to make any attempt at getting themselves back to the top the NL East.