Don’t Expect Much Change To The Phillies InfieldBREAKING NEWS, Infielders, News, Phillies Monday, October 17th, 2011
Ryan Howard underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon for the Achilles tendon that he tore running out of the batter’s box for the final out of the Phillies season. If the surgery goes perfect the slugger is expected to need at least six months to get back to his normal playing level.
This injury cannot be taken lightly and Ruban Amaro Jr. has been the first one to say it is not definite that the All-star first baseman will be ready for spring training. Howard’s five year $125 million contract is set to kick in next season, whether he takes the field or not.
With the chances of Howard starting the season dim, the Phillies will most likely look to Matt Rizzotti to fill the void. By no means is Rizzotti a long-term fix at first base, but Howard is going to be back eventually, so Amaro Jr. has no reason to sign a new first baseman.
Rizzotti batted .295 with 25 home runs in triple A, which aren’t dazzling numbers but good enough to fill in the void at first for a month or two. The New York native slugged above .500 and reached base nearly 40 percent of his at bats. The 26-year-old may seem like a career triple A player, but maybe he can turn a few heads in spring training and find himself starting at first with Howard nursing his calf.
The Phillies have Placido Polanco and Chase Utley under contract until 2014, which in Utley’s case is a good thing even though his numbers have been down each year for the last four years. Utley batted only .259 for the regular season with a mere 11 home runs and only 44 RBI’s.
No longer is Utley the power hitter he once was, so that is why Charlie Manuel moved him up to the second spot in the lineup. Most experts say Utley’s leg injuries have zapped the power out of his stroke, so that’s another reason why the Phillies are no longer offensive juggernaut they once were. Going forward, we have lower our expectations for Utley and be happy with 15 home runs, a .265 average and 70 RBI’s.
Polanco is headed the same way. He had himself one of the worst post-seasons I’ve ever seen. He had two hits and although one may have been timely, the career .300 hitter could have helped Philadelphia a lot this post-season.
The third baseman turned 36 on Monday and age is clearly wearing on the contact hitter. Maybe he just wasn’t able to find holes in the infield this post-season, but watching him at the plate was a struggle. He didn’t look comfortable and was guessing wrong nearly every time a Cardinals’ pitcher threw off-speed.
Jimmy Rollins’ contract expired at the end of this season, but I really don’t see the shortstop reporting anywhere else but Clearwater come spring training. Rollins finally broke his career long post-season slump and was a crucial part of Philly’s offense against the Cards. He batted .450 and scored six runs during the clubs short stint in October, you can’t expect much more from your leadoff hitter. The All-star solidified his worth this post-season and I’ll be very surprised if the Amaro Jr. let’s a leader like Rollins slip through his fingers and sign elsewhere.
The Fightins’ infield is going to look very similar to the way it did last season. Besides a hole at first base for the a month or two, Manuel’s infield will still be a huge factor in deciding a win or a loss for his club. Expect Polanco’s production to go down, but the make-or-break question for Philly in the infield is when and how Ryan Howard will return from this devastating injury.
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