The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Random NL East Notes: Fish Perspective

Two quick things today:

One, did you see the Braves highlights on SportsCenter last night? Granted, it's only spring training, but ageless Braves first baseman Julio Franco turned a very nice 3 - 6 - 3 double play yesterday. Most first baseman would have let the pitcher cover first for the throw back from the shortstop, but not Franco - who is, at least, 45 years old.

Second, there's been a lot of talk in Phillies camp about Ryan Howard and rightfully so. However, the impact Howard might have on Pat Burrell hasn't been discussed much. Howard is a slugger with the potential to have an impact bat in the majors this season. But he's a first baseman by trade, so his path to the bigs is blocked by some guy named Jim Thome. Since Howard's bat is so prolific, the Philllies are trying to find a way to work him into their big league lineup. While he is a great hitter, Howard isn't much of a speedster or a gloveman, so his options are somewhat limited.

This isn't the American League, so the DH isn't an option (though it seems to be a role that Howard was born to fill). Right field isn't much of an option either since the Phils have a potential future Hall of Famer in Bobby Abreu out there. Left field is a good fit for Howard. It's not too demanding defensively and it gives him a spot in the everyday lineup. The only problem is that the Phillies have former number one (overall) pick Pat Burrell out there - a guy who's in the midst of a $50 million contract. But this move is plausible because Burrell has struggled the past two seasons and is attempting to come back from a wrist injury last season (although he didn't undergo any sort of surgery).

If Howard is able to turn himself into an adequate left fielder and/or Burrell struggles to start the year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Pat moved to another club and the role handed over to young Howard. There should be some interesting developments in the land of the cheesesteak this spring, even if Larry Bowa isn't patrolling the clubhouse this season.


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