5 Philadelphia Phillies Turning Heads Early at Spring Training
The pessimism around the Philadelphia Phillies, particularly among the team's fans, has probably gone too far.
Sports talk radio in town cannot get anyone interested in talking about the Phillies because there just does not seem to be that much to talk about. The Phillies are an old team that got older in free agency.
Still, the negativity feels incorrectly unchecked. The Phillies won only 73 games in 2013. They should be better in 2014, though that may not be saying all that much.
But isn't getting better the whole point?
Here are five Phillies doing their part early in spring training to get people in Philadelphia talking about the baseball team again.
Revere is off to a very nice start in Clearwater at Phillies spring training. In five games, Revere is hitting .333 with a couple of runs scored and a stolen base.
Those three elements—hitting enough to get on base, scoring runs and stealing bases—are what the Phillies are counting on Revere for in 2014.
Revere could restore some of the excitement to the top of the lineup which has been missing since Jimmy Rollins began to regress.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. heard a lot of dismay from Phillies fans about the decision to give journeyman outfielder Marlon Byrd a two-year contract.
Byrd is 36 years old. On a team with so many aging, fading stars, a youth movement seemed more in order.
But Byrd's years of experience surely taught him that the easiest way to quell the discontent of fans is by hitting the baseball hard and often.
Byrd is off to a terrific start at spring training, hitting .385 with a home run and three runs batted in through five games played.
If Byrd hits anything like that in the major leagues this season, Phillies fans will no longer care how old he is.
Small sample sizes can be a dangerous thing where Darin Ruf is concerned.
Ruf's cup of coffee in September 2012, where he hit three home runs in very limited action with the Phillies, got the team's fans very excited that Ruf could become the next Greg Luzinski or Pete Incaviglia, a lumber-swinging left fielder who maybe does not catch the ball all the time.
Last spring, though, Ruf neither hit nor caught the ball much in Clearwater and did not make the club out of spring training.
But Ruf did play about half the season with the Phillies in 2013 and put up decent numbers. Ruf is back in Clearwater and seems intent on atoning for past sins.
Ruf is hitting .308 with a home run and four runs batted in through six games played. Perhaps more encouraging, he has one more walk (three) than he does strikeouts (two).
Whether he platoons at first base with Ryan Howard (hitting .100 so far this spring) or just serves as a pinch-hitting threat, Ruf should have value to the 2014 Phillies.
As it was with the Marlon Byrd signing, Phillies fans' reaction to the acquisition of right-handed starter Roberto Hernandez was, at best, indifferent.
In retrospect, those feelings probably reflected concern that Hernandez would be the only starting pitcher the Phillies would sign this offseason. After the Phillies signed A.J. Burnett, suddenly the Hernandez signing looked fairly shrewd.
And Hernandez has pitched quite well in limited action thus far this spring.
Per Bill Chastain of MLB.com: "Roberto Hernandez, who signed with the Phillies as a free agent after pitching for the Rays in 2013, tossed three innings and held his former team to a single while striking out three in his second outing of the spring."
Hernandez's earned run average stands at 3.60 through two games and five innings pitched. He has struck out three batters and, perhaps most importantly, walked none.
Phillippe Aumont can practically throw a baseball through a brick wall. Unfortunately for Phillies fans, that wall is apt to be the one behind home plate at Citizens Bank Park following a wild pitch.
Aumont's golden arm does him and the Phillies no good if he cannot throw strikes. So far in spring training, though, Aumont seems to be making progress.
Opposing batters are hitting just .100 against Aumont after three appearances. Aumont has yielded two walks in three innings pitched, but that is a manageable ratio if his hit count stays low.
With all of the terrific left-handed options in the Phillies bullpen, Aumont continues to be an intriguing puzzle piece from the right side.