Don't Look Now, But...

...things might not be all bad in Philly Town. History may show that last Friday night's game, ruined by a Jose Mesa implosion and a goofy fan grabbing a fair ball down the line, was the absolute low point of the Phillies season. The official rock bottom, can't get any worse, nowhere to go but up, point of the season. Now, less than a week later, things don't look quite so bad and there's a faint breeze of optimism that the Phillies haven't felt blow over them since the early days of the season.

In his most recent Connect The Dots article, CD talked about baseball truisms. Another one that he didn't touch on was that to win, a team has to be strong up the middle. Obviously, that begins with the pitching. The starters have been more than solid all season long, overall. Mike Lieberthal is having perhaps a career year behind the plate and Placido Polanco might not be spectacular, but look it up and you'll see that the Phillies have a much better record with him in the lineup than they do without him. His double-play partner, Jimmy Rollins isn't exactly tearing things up and shouldn't be hitting leadoff, but he's making all the plays and is hitting in the .260 range. That leaves the bullpen and centerfield.

Marlon Byrd was supposed to be a Rookie of the Year candidate. He started the season so badly, that even if he were the only rookie in the National League, they probably would have found some reason to not give him the trophy. He left the month of April hitting .176 and while everyone thought May would be his month to turn things around, but while May got a little better at times, Byrd was still scuffling. Byrd's average went as low as .162 and as high as .207 in May, but he never seemed to be on track. Welcome to June. Byrd has gone 12-23 (.521) in the month of June and his average has climbed to .264 for the season. It's not like he's back in the battle for Rookie of the Year, but he should be okay now and get constant playing time in center field.

In the bullpen, despite a couple of implosions, Jose Mesa has actually gotten the job done. He's shaky in most of his appearances, but has just two blown saves. He has saved 16 games for the Phillies this season and has put himself into first place on the list of career saves leaders in the city. With the exception of Rheal Cormier and Turk Wendell, who have basically pitched well all season long, Terry Adams has probably been the best turnaround story in the Phillies ‘pen. Adams posted a season-high ERA of 4.61 back on May sixth and in just over a month, has lowered it to 3.38 for the season. In June, Adams has thrown eight and two-third innings, allowing just four hits and two earned runs for an ERA of 2.08. If you want a smaller sampling of stats to be happy about, Carlos Silva hasn't allowed an earned run over his last five innings of work, covering two appearances, both of which have been in June.

On the downside, Pat Burrell (.188) and David Bell (.129) are still struggling this month and haven't turned things around like the others have. Burrell and Bell are both fighting to keep their season averages around the mythical .200 mark and seem to be losing the battle. In the double-header sweep of Oakland last Sunday, Burrell appeared to have figured out his problems, but went right back into his slump as the Phillies hit Anaheim. Overall, Dan Plesac's stats don't look too bad (0-0, 3.60), but they're not so great lately. On May 20th, Plesac's ERA stood at 1.23, but has been 10.15 since then, pushing it to its current level.

In the minors, there are a couple of interesting developments. Amaury Telemaco is healthy again. His record is shaky at 3-6, but his season ERA stands at 3.67. Scouts watching Telemaco say that while he isn't exactly a guy who could come to the majors and dominate, he could probably be better than a lot of pitchers who have addresses in major league cities right now. Remember Wayne Gomes? He just saved his ninth game of the season for Scranton Wilkes-Barre and has a 2.76 ERA. Like Telemaco, nobody is saying that Wayne Gomes is suddenly John Smoltz, but he might be an improvement for a lot of teams out there.

It's June and time to separate the contenders from the pretenders and the hot from the cold. Don't look now, but the Phillies have a few more on the plus side of the sheet than they do on the down side since the calendars have turned to June. Maybe, we've seen rock bottom, didn't like how it felt and are clawing our way back. The question is just how far back can this team come?

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