Despite losing their first two spring training games to the Yankees I think the Phillies have shown some positive signs. Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay both gave up a run in their respective starts but looked sharp. Hamels gave up one run on three hits in his two innings of work. Halladay struck out three batters in two innings. He gave up a home run to Alex Rodriguez for his only blemish. Not bad for the first starts of the spring.
Hunter Pence has homered in each of the first two games.
Jonathan Papelbon was perfect in his debut. He pitched the fifth inning on Saturday. Some of Papelbon’s bullpen mates didn’t fare as well. Dontrelle Willis got two lefties out but seemed to struggle surrendering one run in his inning. Chad Qualls got two quick outs and then fell into trouble. He’s a sinker and slider pitcher but apparently doesn’t have either working yet. The Yankees were launching the ball into the air on a windy afternoon and ended up getting three runs off of him. Qualls, however, should be a lock to start the season in the bullpen while Willis is more of a long shot. Pitching Coach Rich Dubee said both Willis and Qualls looked fine on Saturday.
John Mayberry, Jr. started both games at first and looked good in the field. He made a nice over-the-shoulder catch of a foul pop-up in Saturday’s game. I think he is still the best option at first base while Ryan Howard is out. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian said on Saturday that he expects Wigginton to get most of the time at first. The Phillies broadcasters seemed to think it would be Mayberry. I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlie Manuel used Thome more than anybody else in order to get Thome’s bat in the lineup. I just don’t think Thome has the agility to be effective defensively. If Thome is the starter, I would expect to see him replaced often by Wigginton later in games.
Michael Martinez is likely to have a bench spot but he shouldn’t count on it. He has a better chance to prove himself with the departure of Wilson Valdez to Cincinnati. Yesterday, however, he had an awful game at second base and the fact that he hit .196 last year isn’t helping his chances. I could see a guy like Pete Orr or Kevin Frandsen making the team over Martinez.
Joe Blanton will start today against the Yankees. Scott Elarton, David Herndon, Austin Hyatt and Brian Sanches are also expected to pitch. Jim Thome will DH today and Ty Wigginton is starting at first base. The game is at 1:05 p.m. on the MLB Network and the Comcast Sports Network.