First, it was Roy Halladay at the mic. Then Ryan Howard. Then Chase Utley. And in three days of spring training, the Phillies’ big three on the health front had all spoken and addressed the injuries of 2012.
Among the many things that went wrong for the Phillies in 2012, injuries to star players was critical. So, if there is no news it’s good news for the Phillies.
Halladay started well. He said he feels as good as ever, ready to go. He proved it in his debut, looking just as good as usual allowing one run on one hit with two strikeouts in two innings.
Next, there’s Howard. He said he is strong. His leg feels “phenomenal.” He proved it on Sunday, belting two doubles in three at-bats and running the bases with much improvement.
Finally, there’s Utley, the true question mark of the season.
Utley comes into the season with such skepticism. Why? He hasn’t played a spring training game in three years. His knee injuries have been hit-or-miss – play through the pain but miss significant time as well.
Howard’s injury was expected to heal, it was just a question of how long it would take. Halladay faces questions too, but to a different extent. People are asking if Doc’s career is in decline simply because his command was lacking, velocity was down and he suffered a shoulder injury last season.
But Utley’s condition is one that lingers. It’s one that has to be monitored and treated correctly. Utley is in camp and has played in two games. That’s enormous progress. What Utley said at the start of camp was even better.
“I feel pretty damn good right now,” Utley said. “It was a very productive offseason,” he said. “I had no flareups. In the weight room, I made progressions I haven’t done in three or four years. I was able to get stronger. I wanted to get my legs stronger without irritating my knees and I did that.”
This is a second baseman who has missed a countless number of games, been on his own spring training regimen for three seasons and quite frankly, marched to the beat of his own drum. There hasn’t been an orthodox spring for Utley in years.
So on day one, Utley took ground balls in the infield. He hit batting practice on day two. He played in the first spring training game – an intrasquad game – on Friday. He played officially in a Grapefruit League game on Saturday, going 1-for-2 with an RBI single.
The results to this point are encouraging, not just on Utley but on Howard and Halladay as well. It is just a tune-up for most of the players in camp that will be expected to make the Opening Day roster.
But what is admirable is the way the Phillies quickly addressed last season and the health of three crucial role players. What is admirable is the way these three athletes, all with strong work ethic, improved their health over the offseason, address the areas that needed fixing and came to Clearwater prepared.
That kind of mentality may have been what was missing in 2012. That kind of mentality may translate to the field. And that kind of mentality may just keep the Phillies on the NL East radar and put them in a position to get back to the Postseason.