10 Things To Watch For This Spring

Now that the routine workouts are over and it's down to business – well, at least it's down to exhibition games – the real meaning of spring training is ready to be examined. As with every team at this time of year, it's time to figure out the keys to look for from the Phillies, their National League East opponents and the rest of Major League Baseball.

1. Is Pat Burrell swinging a hot bat? Don't confuse this with hitting a lot of homeruns or hitting for a high spring average. If Pat Burrell is swinging the bat well and not looking like the fat kid in little league just hacking away because the other team's catcher yelled "swing", then Burrell is okay. Judging by the monster homerun that he hit in the intrasquad game the other day, the swing is okay.

2. Does David Bell really look healthy? Look for the slightest sign of Bell grimacing or holding his back. Don't let little glitches like a day or two off throw you into panic mode. Bell is a veteran and there is no real need to push him. He knows what he has to do to get in shape, so Larry Bowa will be cautious. When he does play though, how does he look? That's how we'll begin to tell if the real David Bell is back.

3. Don't get over excited by Gavin Floyd or Cole Hamels They are both huge prospects who will give the Phillies their own version of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. That's for down the road, though. Neither will start the season with the Phillies and if someone in the rotation stumbles or gets hurt, don't clamor for Floyd or Hamels to take their spot. It's not going to happen and it shouldn't happen. Enjoy watching them and dream of days to come.

4. Does Jimmy Rollins have a clue about how to bunt? He has given playing "small ball" a lot of lip service. He even laid down a bunt in his first at bat in the intrasquad game. Still, there is a lot to come. Jimmy Rollins has to completely embrace the idea and also has to know how to get it done. It doesn't do much good if Rollins wants to bunt, but shows no ability to get the job done.

5. Look for other teams that have a "good fit" with the Phillies. In other words, who might we be able to pull off a trade with? Since Doug Glanville is back in town, rumor is that Chase Utley or Jason Michaels could be trade bait. One team to watch is Montreal. They need a right-handed bat off the bench and could possibly have an open spot in the outfield. Michaels might look great in that spot. The Expos have a young catching prospect in Brad Cresse that they got from Arizona and the Phillies could use catching prospects. Interesting.

6. Are Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone magicians? The Atlanta Braves are not the Braves of old. Yes, they have a lot of talent, but consider that in the last two years they've lost Kevin Millwood, Tom Glavine, Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, Javy Lopez and a couple other pieces. Mazzone has a way of turning around careers. Could John Thomson be his next successful project?

7. Did reinforcements arrive in time in Chicago and Houston? The Astros got Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens to give themselves a very good starting rotation. Problem is that the likes of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell aren't any younger. Can they hold it together to take advantage of the new-look starting rotation? In Chicago, Dusty Baker did a great job in his first season and they've added some help in the form of Derrek Lee and Greg Maddux among a couple others. Does it give the Cubs the right mix and enough power to win the Central and become a post-season force?

8. How bad are Bobby Abreu's back spasms? It's not unusual for a player to suffer muscle spasms early in spring training. A winter of lighter workouts turns into a spring full of much more strenuous workouts and the muscles rebel. Problem here is that Abreu was supposedly in the most physically demanding off-season workout program of his career and he still wound up with back spasms that have been bad enough to keep him in the trainer's room while everyone else works out. Not a great sign. If the spasms disappear, look for big things from Abreu, because he really is in the best shape of his career and seems set to match his 30 homerun / 30 stolen base season of a couple years ago.

9. Deafening silence in the broadcast booth. It's now officially documented that Harry Kalas and Chris Wheeler don't like each other. Can they continue to work together? Odds are that the two professionals will pull it off and we'll never again be reminded of their falling out. Still, the Phillies could have probably rearranged the booth assignments and kept the two in opposite booths for at least a season.

10. Is the home opener really going to be on April 12th? The Phillies insist that Citizens Bank Park will be ready to go, but there are differing reports from none other than the construction workers that are building the place. Maybe they're just trying to push for some overtime, but then again, maybe the new place isn't quite ready to go. Consider it a bad sign if the Phillies tell fans to bring lawn chairs and hard hats to the opener.

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