Spring Postcard: Loaded Phillies look for an NL three-peat
The acquisition of Roy Halladay makes the Phillies heavy NL East favorites
Cole Hamels has his arm strength back after a down year in 2009
Domonic Brown is causing a big buzz, but he may need a year in the minors
This spring, SI.com's baseball writers will be filing postcards from each of the 30 major league camps. To read all of the postcards, click here.
1. This is a great team that knows it's great
You thought the Phillies had some swagger before? The vibe on this team just went through the roof now that Roy Halladay is in the house. The ace has a commanding presence and a boot camp work ethic that has rubbed off not just on the young pitchers in camp, but the entire roster -- as if Jimmy Rollins and company needed even more confidence.
2. Cole Hamels is looking good
Hamels is in far better shape than he was at this time last year, when he showed up flipping fastballs at 81 mph after he shut down his offseason throwing because of his huge innings jump in 2008. Hamels said he talked with buddy and fellow Year-After Effect victim Mark Prior about what happened to Prior after his innings jump in 2003; both agreed they paid a price for the extra work. This offseason Hamels threw all winter and his arm strength is back. The Phillies hope it translates into a better curveball for a decent third pitch. If not, they plan either to tighten the curve into something more like a slurve or just give him a cutter.
3. The front office has depth and talent
One thing you notice in camp is that Philadelphia has deep talent in its front office, not just on the field. The Phillies have collected one of the biggest, smartest and most experienced front offices in baseball, including Ruben Amaro, Scott Proefrock, Benny Looper, Chuck LaMar, Pat Gillick, Dallas Green, Charley Kerfeld, Steve Noworyta and Gordon Lakey. I've said it many times before and I'll say it again: forget revenues for a moment; front office intellect is the real currency in baseball.
Wish You Were Here
The quickest way to get under the skin of GM Ruben Amaro is simply to mention the name of Cliff Lee. Amaro has explained time and time again that he could not afford to keep Lee and Roy Halladay even for one year on the same staff because he needed to restock the farm system (Philadelphia received three prospects from Seattle for Lee) and he was pushing the limits of what he had to spend.
Well, the GM is tired of explaining. One day Lee said on television that the Phillies traded him on the same day his agent presented the club with a counteroffer toward an extension. Asked about Lee's account of that timing, Amaro snapped, "Incorrect. And I'm done talking about it."
Ohh-kay then. Thing is, Lee's name will be heard in Philadelphia all year. The Phillies did have a chance to blow the doors off the National League with Halladay, Lee and Hamels at the top of their rotation, then pocketed the draft picks when Lee left as a free agent. Amaro may be proven right over time by taking the longer view, but fans of the two-time pennant winners are all about the opportunity now.
New Face, New Place
What? You say Werth isn't a new face? Well, then you haven't seen him in Clearwater this spring. The right fielder always worked the low-maintenance, skatepark dude look, with his soul patch and lack of regard for razor and comb. But this spring the guy looks like something that washed ashore on "Lost." His hair is longer and even more unkempt and his beard recalls House of David baseball. Said Phillies advisor and former GM Pat Gillick, "Look at him. He's our Grizzly Adams."
Prospect creating a buzz
Kyle Drabek, Jason Knapp and Michael Taylor may be gone at the cost of trades for Lee and Halladay, but it's no accident that Philadelphia still has Brown, 22, a corner outfielder and one of the best prospects in baseball. Brown has NFL size (6-foot-5, 204 pounds) and looks so good this spring that scouts from other organizations already are buzzing about his athleticism and maturity. Brown probably needs a full year in the minors (barring injuries on the big club) before he could be the replacement for Werth if the incumbent right fielder leaves as a free agent after this season.
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