Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Injuries? What Injuries?

On Monday night, Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth were announced in the starting lineup. Neither player finished the game in the field due to injuries. Werth made it through five innings, and was replaced by Ben Francisco at the top of the sixth after feeling soreness in his left hip. Rollins was taken out before the first inning. He suffered a left calf strain at some point during the pre-game warmups. The whole team was surprised when backup infielder Juan Castro made his first appearance this season by starting at shortstop.

In the end, it didn't matter that night. The rest of the offense backed up Cole Hamels with a five run fifth inning, and the Phillies won their home opener against the Washington Nationals 7-4. Hamels allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings while striking out six. Once the Phillies got the lead, Chad Durbin, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez, and Ryan Madson didn't allow another hit for the rest of the game, continuing the bullpen's strong start to the season. Chase Utley had a two-run home run, and Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard each had two hits.

The entire offense is off to a red-hot start this season, but it remains to been seen how serious these injuries are and how that will affect the team. Werth's removal seemed more precautionary than anything else, and it's likely that the team was a little more wary of it having lost Rollins earlier that evening. Though, if I were to lose one of the two I'd rather have to lose Werth, simply because Ben Francisco is a starter-caliber player. Rollins' injury appears more serious, though we probably won't know how serious until some point Wednesday.

Last season, the Phillies lost Jimmy Rollins for a month and wound up doing reasonably well without him. They went 16-12 and still scored 4.9 runs per game. Eric Bruntlett played shortstop in his stead and hit .245 with his OBP and SLG both over .300. Juan Castro has never been a great hitter, but he's a veteran player with a solid glove. If Rollins goes to the DL, the Phillies should be in solid hands with Castro; If Rollins needs any time to recover from this injury, the team should take the safe route and put him there. Better to be safe and have Rollins miss two-three weeks than to take a chance and risk losing him for more time. Shane Victorino is a great replacement in the leadoff spot, and while Bruntlett put up solid numbers last year, Castro is a much more reliable player.

Other options to replace Rollins (or fill the utility infielder spot on the bench) would be Wilson Valdez, who did a nice job playing shortstop for the Mets last season when their entire team apparently suffered the plague, Cody Ransom, who doesn't have much of a glove but had a very impressive spring for the Phillies, or Brian Bocock, who doesn't have much of a bat but is the only other shortstop on the Phillies' 40-man roster. Most likely it would be Bocock, since he has minor league options and the Phillies would risk losing Valdez or Ransom.

The loss of Rollins would be a big blow, but the team has proven to have plenty of firepower this season, and having Shane Victorino move to the leadoff spot would not be something to cry about. They would be down to only six All-Stars in the starting lineup, but somehow I think they would manage. Better to play it safe than be sorry.

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