The transition from March to April is rarely straightforward.
Not that there's a reason to reassure oneself about the uselessness of spring stats, but this morning, I looked up some of the all-time misleading springs in Beerleaguer history. Brett Myers had a few. Fresh off a very generous three-year, $25.75 million contract extension, a slimmed-down Myers arrived in Clearwater in 2007 ready to turn the page and become the staff ace after an ugly season that included an arrest in Boston. Three disastrous starts into the season and Myers was moved to the bullpen. Then in 2008, he grudgingly accepted a rotation reassignment, and statistically, appeared to be ready, going 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in spring. He was demoted to the IronPigs in early July.
Myers is one of a dozen examples. Aaron Rowand hit something like .170 during '07 spring training and was reportedly on the trade block. Nine months later, he finalized a five-year, $60 million deal with San Francisco following a monster year. And of course, there was Eric Bruntlett.
Usually, warning signs are better identified through physical observation. Ryan Howard arrived fat and out of shape in '07 and was a complete mess for months. Cole Hamels arrived in '09 unprepared and paid for it all season.
But it's not just stats; rosters rarely shake out the way they're supposed to. This spring, the process seems pretty straight forward, but the Phillies, and injuries, of course, have a way of complicating things. Speaking of 2007, do you remember that Karim Garcia was expected to capture the fifth outfielder spot based on a strong showing and lack of internal depth, only to be released before Opening Day? Often, the Phillies seem to devote most of their focus toward acquiring last-minute help from the outside. In '07, they filled their final spot with reliever Francisco Rosario, then juggled rosters once again when Jon Lieber and Freddy Garcia came off the DL, sending a month's worth of roster speculation down the drain.
The Phillies say they're comfortable letting young guys like Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona duke it out for the final spot in the 'pen, but don't be surprised if the 25th man is currently in some other camp. Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero's status could also become a critical factor. Plus, the Phillies have a number of players without roles who would be attractive to other clubs.
Game chat: J.A. Happ makes first official Grapefruit Leauge start today at 1 p.m. against the Rays. Phillippe Aumont, Drew Naylor, Jesus Sanchez, David Herndon, Johan Flande and Joe Savery will also put in work. Lineups are posted. Rollins (SS), Polanco (3B), Utley (2B), Howard (1B), Ibanez (LF), Francisco (CF), Brown (RF), Gload (DH) and Schneider (C). Pat Burrell starts in right field against his old team.