A look at the Phillies going into spring training:
(This is part of my contributions to a season preview that I’m putting together with a few other writers. That will run Saturday, Feb. 14, the day Spring training begins)
W-L Record: 92-70. Sorry J-Roll, I know you say 112 overall, but it just ain’t happening.
National League East finish: 1st. Yeah, yeah I know the “sexy” pick would be the Braves or Marlins, and the Mets look strong but I gotta go with the defending champs. It’ll be the same people on ESPN or in SI that pick the Mets, Braves and Marlins again this year. Hey guys, I got sexy for you, how ‘bout picking the team that’s going to win!
The fifth starter: It’s Park’s to lose, I think. Carrasco could be a guy who comes in around the all-star break and takes the spot due to injury or poor performance. However, I don’t think he’s a legitimate option for opening day. Kendrick could certainly get it but he has a lot to prove. It got pretty bad last year.
Who wins arbitration, Howard or the Phillies? This one’s a really tough call because, again, there’s no one to compare him to. $18 million is an 80% raise, which really, his play doesn’t warrant. That being said, so much of the system is based on service time. He now has one more year of service and off to the best start of anyone in the history of the game. I weighed the two arguments in a column last week and after writing both sides Howard seems to have a better argument. I think they could end up settling for a number like $16 million, but if it goes to arbitration Howard should win, but will probably lose.
Ibanez’s effect on the team: It’s tough to say now, but I look forward to seeing him play. Ibanez will have the adjustment of leaving the AL and facing new pitchers, as well as filling the shoes of someone, who oddly enough now, I would call a fan favorite. Personally, I was on and off the Pat Burrell bandwagon throughout his tenure here. He did some great things and some really frustrating things. One thing you’ll get from Ibanez is a little more consistency.