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Phillies Spring Training quick hits

Phillies Spring Training quick hits

2006 record
85-77, second, National League East

Projected batting order
1. SS Jimmy Rollins:
  .277 BA, 25 HR, 83 RBI
2. RF Shane Victorino:
  .287 BA, 6 HR, 46 RBI
3. 2B Chase Utley:
  .309 BA, 32 HR, 102 RBI
4. 1B Ryan Howard:
  .313 BA, 58 HR, 149 RBI
5. LF Pat Burrell:
  .258 BA, 29 HR, 95 RBI
6. 3B Wes Helms:
  .329 BA, 10 HR, 47 RBI
7. CF Aaron Rowand:
  .262 BA, 12 HR, 47 RBI
8. C Carlos Ruiz:
  .261 BA, 3 HR, 10 RBI

Projected rotation
1. RHP Freddy Garcia, 17-9, 4.53 ERA
2. RHP Brett Myers, 12-7, 3.91 ERA
3. LHP Cole Hamels, 9-8, 4.08 ERA
4. LHP Jamie Moyer, 11-14, 4.30 ERA
5. RHP Adam Eaton, 7-4, 5.12 ERA

Projected bullpen
Closer: RHP Tom Gordon, 34 saves, 3.34 ERA
RH setup man: Ryan Madson, 5.69 ERA
RH setup man: Geoff Geary, 2.96 ERA

The new guys
RHP Antonio Alfonseca: The Phillies liked what they saw in winter ball, and decided to give the veteran reliever a shot. Limited by injuries over the past two seasons, Alfonseca compiled a 2.57 ERA in 73 2/3 innings with Atlanta in 2004, his last healthy campaign. An effective Alfonseca would give manager Charlie Manuel's bullpen a boost.

C Rod Barajas: Valuable insurance in case Ruiz falters, Barajas could see significant playing time in a split situation with the young backstop. He's viewed as a good game-caller who could provide double-digit home runs.

Eaton: Assuming good health -- a tall order considering Eaton threw 65 innings last season because of injury to his right middle finger -- the right-hander will round out the Phillies' rotation. A former first-round pick by Philadelphia (1996), Eaton returns with more experience, though a fly-ball pitcher in Citizens Bank Park always causes concern.

Garcia: A Winter Meetings coup, the durable right-hander came to Philadelphia for top prospect Gio Gonzalez and disappointing Gavin Floyd. Garcia, a 17-game winner in 2006, helped lead the White Sox to a World Series championship in 2005 and is 6-2 with a 3.11 ERA in nine career postseason starts.

Helms: The veteran infielder resurrected his career with Florida last season by hitting .329 in 240 at-bats. He'll be counted on for production out of the sixth spot in the batting order. He could bat fifth if he's hitting and Burrell struggles.

Spring Training
News and features:
Multimedia:
• Coste wants to stay in Philly:  350K
• Howard on final week of camp:   350K
• Florida coach Meyer visits Phils:   350K
• Hamels on his recent Minors start:  350K
• Gordon talks about getting a ring:  350K
Spring Training info:
MLB.com coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

OF Jayson Werth: General manager Pat Gillick liked Werth enough to make him a first-round draft pick in 1997, when Gillick was GM in Baltimore. A decade later, he hopes Werth finds himself in Philadelphia. The 27-year-old missed all of the 2006 recovering from left wrist surgery, after being hit by an A.J. Burnett pitch during the previous season.Werth can play all three outfield spots, and should serve as a fourth outfielder.

Prospects to watch
RHP Joe Bisenius: With continued progression, the right-hander could find his way into Philadelphia's bullpen at some point in 2007. The 12th-round draft pick in 2004 impressed at Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading in 2006, notching 95 strikeouts in 84 combined innings. He's been clocked as high as 97 mph, but is generally in the 92-94 mph range.

OF Michael Bourn: The speedy outfielder didn't suffer, despite skipping high Class A in 2005. He started 2006 with Double-A Reading and finished in Philadelphia. Bourn has led the organization in steals in each of the past three seasons, and he can disrupt a game with his quickness. He is also a fine outfielder with a strong arm. Despite these positives, Bourn will likely begin the season with Triple-A Ottawa, where he'll play every day. But he could provide insurance in Philly if something happens to an outfielder.

LHP J.A. Happ: The former Northwestern Wildcat has steadily progressed through the Minors, reaching Triple-A Ottawa in 2 1/2 seasons. Happ has improved his delivery -- which, in turn, increased his velocity -- but his good location and changeup have gotten him this far. Happ could be summoned if one of the starters should falter midseason, though the Phillies would prefer to keep him at Triple-A for the duration.

Returning from injury
Gordon: He was cruising until shoulder inflammation cost him 2 1/2 weeks in August. He pitched OK in his September return, alleviating some worries, but the lack of a replacement has the team praying there is no relapse.

Rowand: He said he's 100 percent recovered from his broken left ankle, sustained in a late-August collision with Utley. His all-out style of play will always concern his handlers, but he can bolster a lineup and has leadership qualities in the clubhouse.

On the rebound
Burrell: Much has been made about Burrell's .222 average with runners in scoring position (.167 with two outs) in 2006, considering his .313 mark from 2005. Burrell is obviously capable of big things, and his right-handed power is sorely needed to help offset lefties Howard and Utley.

INF Abraham Nunez: A stellar defensive third baseman, but his .211 average forced the Phillies to find an upgrade. The switch-hitter is likely best served in a utility role, and he can back up all four infield spots.

Long gone
OF David Dellucci: When the Phillies couldn't guarantee him a starting gig or the money he sought, Dellucci found both with the Indians. The Phillies will miss his offensive contributions and leadership skills.

RHP Gavin Floyd: If Floyd ever finds confidence in his delivery and can repeat his mechanics, he can become an effective Major League pitcher.

LHP Aaron Fultz: After not matching his career year from 2005, Fultz returned to the American League Central, joining Dellucci in Cleveland.

C Mike Lieberthal: The franchise leader in games caught left for his hometown team (the Dodgers), and will back up and mentor Russell Martin. Lieberthal played through a lot of pain during his tenure, especially over the past few years.

INF Jose Hernandez: Forgot he was actually on the Phillies? He'll be remembered for a pinch-hit grand slam he hit against the Cubs on Sept. 18, though the Phillies lost that game, 11-6.

INF Alex S. Gonzalez: His May retirement opened the door for Chris Coste, though he's now trying to return with the Royals.

LHP Arthur Rhodes: The lefty's season ended on Sept. 9, when he strained his left elbow throwing a pitch. He opted not to have surgery.

RHP Rick White: The journeyman reliever fared better after being claimed off waivers in June (from the Reds), but never gained Manuel's confidence.

LHP Randy Wolf: The talented southpaw joined his close friend and longtime teammate Lieberthal with the Dodgers, who were also Wolf's team growing up. He showed last season that he is fully recovered from 2005 Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.

2006 hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Howard, .313
OBP: Abreu, .427
SLG: Howard, .659
Runs: Utley, 131
RBIs: Howard, 149
Hits: Utley, 203
2B: Rollins, 45
3B: Rollins, 9
HR: Howard, 58
SB: Rollins, 36
2006 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Myers, 198
W: Myers, 12
L: Lieber, 11
Win %: Wolf, 6-0, 1.000
S: Gordon, 34
ERA: Geary, 2.96
K: Myers, 189
K/9: Gordon, 10.31
WHIP: Hamels, 1.25

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

What else can Howard accomplish?
Not much. The big guy led the team's second-half resurgence and established himself as a star. He'll draw a lot of attention and intentional walks, unless Burrell and the rest of the lineup makes pitchers pay.

Who gives the ball to Gordon?
Geary emerged as a reliable reliever, and Madson was more effective from the bullpen, but Manuel needs a consistent eighth-inning option. Antonio Alfonseca could be that guy, but a solution is more likely to come from outside the organization.

What happens to Jon Lieber?
He's still the best bargaining chip, and Gillick hopes a team will call before the April 2 season opener. The Phillies would like to land a setup man or replace the other part that might be sacrificed to get that. In other words, maybe Lieber brings an outfielder, if Rowand is dealt for a reliever.

The bottom line
In his column in The Sporting News, Detroit reliever Todd Jones wrote that the Tigers "made the playoffs in April and May," when they went a combined 35-18. By contrast, the Phillies went 27-25 over the first two months, and they weren't able to recover, even with an NL-best 45-30 record in the second half. With a high-powered offense led by the MVP and a deep and experienced starting rotation, a slow start could cost Manuel his job.

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

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