A call to arms in '07

Phillies stockpile arms in postseason quest

PHILADELPHIA -- With a better start paramount among the Phillies' desires for 2007, Philadelphia's brain trust took major steps toward achieving that goal.

It begins and ends with the team's improved rotation -- a revamped group that begins with Freddy Garcia, the offseason's key acquisition, and includes Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton and Jamie Moyer. It still technically includes Jon Lieber, though he's likely to be dealt for relief help.

"We think we have a better group than who we had last Opening Day," general manager Pat Gillick said after the team signed Adam Eaton, and it was seconded after acquiring Garcia from the White Sox.

Though Hamels and Moyer performed well for the Phillies in 2006, Myers is the only member of the quintet who opened last season on the roster. Last season, an April rotation of Lieber, Myers, Cory Lidle, Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd produced a 10-14 record and a 5.64 ERA, with Lieber's 0-4 mark and a 7.04 ERA being the worst.

Meanwhile, Moyer (Seattle), Eaton (Texas), Hamels (Class A Clearwater) and Garcia (White Sox) were rooming elsewhere. Now, they must mesh together and pitch deep into games consistently.

Remaining healthy is also going to be important for the group, as the Phillies dealt possible replacements in Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez, and may still part with Lieber. Eaton has never topped 200 innings in a season, and he missed half of last season with an injury to his right middle finger. Hamels stayed healthy in 2006, though he must maintain a program to keep his back sound.

Assuming good health, the Phillies love what they have.

"When you look at this rotation from a depth standpoint, it's very good," said Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant GM, scouting and player development. "When you have good pitching, you're going to compete every day."

Despite not landing Alfonso Soriano, the Phillies return a potent lineup headed by National League MVP Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Pat Burrell is coming off a poor year hitting with runners in scoring position, but he still collected 29 homers and nearly 100 RBIs.

 Season in Preview
A lot can change by Opening Day, but as 2006 becomes 2007, this is who is projected to take the field for the Phillies:
  SSJimmy Rollins
  RFShane Victorino
  2BChase Utley
  1BRyan Howard
  LFPat Burrell
  CFAaron Rowand
  3BWes Helms
  CRod Barajas
  SPFreddy Garcia
  SPBrett Myers
  SPCole Hamels
  SPAdam Eaton
  SPJamie Moyer
  CLTom Gordon
Schedules: Spring | Regular season
Tickets: Regular season
More previews:

The offense must continue to flourish to spare what could be a suspect bullpen that lacks a proven setup man. The Phillies will continue to search for a bridge from Geoff Geary and Ryan Madson to closer Tom Gordon. Ideally, that pitcher could close if necessary.

Offseason report card: Gillick upgraded the offensive production at third base by securing free agent Wes Helms, who will receive most of the playing time. He fared well in 2006 with the Marlins, batting .329 with 10 homers in 240 at-bats. Outfielder Jayson Werth also could provide a right-handed option with some power. With the rotation settled, the Phillies need to concentrate on finding a proven late-inning reliever, then secure a left-handed, late-inning pinch hitter.

Arrivals: RHP Garcia (trade), RHP Eaton (free agent), 1B/3B Helms (free agent), OF Werth (free agent), RHP Alfredo Simon (Rule 5 Draft), RHP James Warden (Rule 5 Draft), C Ryan Budde (Rule 5 Draft).

Departures: LHP Randy Wolf (free agent), C Mike Lieberthal (free agent), OF David Dellucci (free agent), LHP Aaron Fultz (free agent), RHP Floyd (trade), LHP Gonzalez (trade) , LHP Arthur Rhodes (free agent), INF Jose Hernandez (free agent), RHP Julio Santana (released).

The road ahead: Even though the club promises to be very young, and not overly experienced, the search for bargain-priced veterans will continue. The set-up role is up in the air, and the front office is looking to solidify the bullpen, and find a left-handed pinch hitter.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.