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I remember driving home from Phillies Opening Day last year after they lost to the Braves. Some Phillies fans were already calling radio stations and demanding Charlie Manuel’s firing. Gotta love the passion, but let’s take a deep breath. It’s waaay to early to pass judgment on any team. Here are some observations after the Phillies opening series against the Nationals, along with an ode to poor Pedro.
· It was good to see the Phillies bang out 16 hits in the series finale after being held to one hit by Tim Redding (yes, Tim Redding) the night before. You love to see this lineup go deep, but when 13 of the 16 hits are singles, including seven in a row, you know that Phillies hitters are taking what pitchers give them instead of swinging for the fences. That’s a good thing.
· Everyone’s favorite feel-good story, catcher Chris Coste, went deep for the Phillies yesterday. I really think Coste and starting catcher Carlos Ruiz will provide quite a bit of pop from the eighth spot in the batting order.
· Pitching in a tough loss on Wednesday, Cole Hamels proved that pre-season pitching numbers don’t mean squat unless you’re competing for a job. He could give Johan Santana a run for the Cy Young Award this year.
· News flash… no lead is safe against the Phillies offense. They can put six on the board in a hurry, so opposing managers will have to be extra careful with their bullpen choices when they think a game is in hand.
· I won’t kill Charlie Manuel for pulling Brett Myers for a pinch hitter after five innings and 86 pitches on Monday. Myers clearly didn’t have his best stuff and the Phillies had a runner on base. But Manuel is notorious for pulling his starters anytime after five innings when the Phillies are behind, or when they get anywhere near 100 pitches. They’re your starters for a reason, Charlie. Let them take you deep into games, especially Myers and Hamels, even if it means occasionally letting them hit with runners on base in tight games.
· Ode to Poor Pedro: I was scoffed at when I said Pedro Martinez is now a six-inning pitcher who is guaranteed to miss at least five starts. He may meet that quota by early May. I don't relish any player's injury, but let’s face it. Pedro was once a great pitcher, but he’s never been a gym rat and hamstring injuries tend to linger. The best the Mets can probably hope for from Pedro and their other ancient starter, Orlando Hernandez, is to get 15-20 starts from each of them and have them healthy for the post-season if the Mets get there. And that’s a big IF. The Mets have no depth and question marks throughout the lineup, and I have a feeling they could have trouble keeping their collective heads above water. I’m not writing off the Mets. I’m just not sold on them as a “can’t miss” contender.