Phils Bench Playing A Huge Role

It's almost May and the Phillies are sitting pretty, with a 16-11 record and clicking on all cylinders. Sure, a no-hitter by Kevin Millwood, and the everyday players of this team starting to find their offense has helped the Phils find themselves where they are today, but lost in all of those factors has to be the solid bench Larry Bowa has at his beck and call everyday.

Hidden behind the discussion of Jim Thome and Pat Burrell's early season struggles has been the emergence of players such as Ricky Ledee who have stepped up and carried the load when called upon. Both Burrell and Thome have yet to hit the ground running, with just seven combined home runs but behind them are guys who have picked up some offensive slack. One of the most visible role players on this team has to be Ledee, who nearly won the starting centerfield position on this team from Marlon Byrd. But when Byrd went down with a knee injury against Cincinnati, Ledee took his game to another level. Through 20 games played Ledee hit three home runs, with 13 RBI to his credit and is batting an impressive .300. The only real blemish was a key error in a loss to the Braves earlier this month, but that cannot overshadow his performance early on this season.

Tomas Perez has been an instrumental part of this team for the past few years, providing energy and hits in key situations off the bench for Bowa and the Phightin' Phils. Known for his clutch pinch-hits and solid glove when called upon, Perez is once again holding his own with the starters on this club. Even though he is yet to homer this year, he is batting .263 and has only struck out seven times in 38 at bats. Look for Perez to come through in the clutch when asked to.

Now that we've seen what key individuals have done coming off the bench, lets look into how the unit has performed as a whole during this young season. Through a combined 118 at bats, the Phils reserves have tallied one home run, 22 RBI and 33 hits. The bench is hitting an impressive .280 through the month of April. Who knows where the team would be without the jolts coming from the bench when need be? The biggest jolt this club has received from its role players took place April 24 against the Colorado Rockies. Phils rookie Chase Utley, the second basemen of the future slammed his first career home run, and he did so in style. Launching a ball just over the right field Wall, Utley raced around the bases tallying his first career grand slam. Utley's shot lit a fire under Pat Burrell who also went yard on the afternoon.

Obviously players like Tyler Houston, Jason Michaels, Perez and Utley may not get their chance to shine as often as they may wish on a team loaded with veterans, but when given the chance they find a way to make a name for themselves. Philadelphia's bench will play a key role from here on out, and if a leader on this team needs a rest or isn't producing they are capable of picking up the slack as long as they have to.

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