Abreu A Bright Spot In Another Dismal Week

Times are tough for the Philadelphia Phillies. The last place Fightin's struggled through another difficult week, losing two of three to the also-ran Milwaukee Brewers and splitting a four game series with the badly scuffling Cincinnati Reds. Manager Charlie Manuel openly wondered about his underachieving club, musing that the season was slowly slipping away. Phillies Brass met to discuss the direction and future of the team, though no immediate significant changes occurred as a result.

Said embattled GM Ed Wade about the Phillies meeting of the minds: "It was a chance for everyone to get their feelings on the table and the bottom line was, we believe in the guys we've got here, we just have to do everything we can to get them to perform at the level they're capable of performing…I think this team is good enough to win in this division and we have to kick it into gear."

Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel echoed Wade's sentiments: "We discussed our team and went over some ways to improve our club…It wasn't something about making a lot of changes. I still think we have a good team."

One change was made during the week, though it didn't address any of the club's most pressing needs: out-of-favor centerfielder Marlon Byrd was swapped even-up for Washington Nationals out-of-favor centerfielder Endy Chavez. A lefty speedster, Chavez was immediately anointed the centerfielder of the future. Chavez started in centerfield on Sunday, hitting a big triple in a win against the Reds.

"He's a guy who brings a lot of energy to his game and doesn't strike out a lot," Wade said. "He brings a lot of elements to our club which make us better."

"We've had center field issues for a while now," Wade said. "You go through the list of center fielders, and, unfortunately, the Juan Pierres of the world aren't available. If Kenny were healthy and 28, we probably wouldn't be in the market."

These comments are a bit strange, since the Phillies most productive position players this year have been the outfielders, particularly centerfield. With centerfielders of the future Michael Bourne and Chris Roberson in the minor leagues, you had to wonder why the Phillies didn't hold out for pitching. Perhaps this move was the start of a series of moves that will address the Phillies pitching needs, though the front office continues to preach patience and faith with the team as it is currently assembled.

Meanwhile, the Phillies managed a split with the Reds behind a sold performance by the struggling Vicente Padilla. According to catcher Todd Pratt, Padilla's nasty mound demeanor and confidence in his fastball returned, a good sign for a team in dire need of good news. Still, Padilla walked six batters in six innings, not a recipe for winning.

The other good news this week was the explosive bat of Bobby Abreu, who homered in 7 of the last 8 games and raised his batting average to a lofty .331. "A week like this has never happened to me," said Abreu, "I'm just going to enjoy it and have a good time."

Starting this Tuesday, the Phillies begin a stretch of difficult games against first place Cardinals and Orioles, after which they will have a chance to save the season with back-to-back showdown series against the Marlins and Braves. If the Phillies continue to lose, the rhetoric about staying the course will not appease the fans. Sure, it is only mid-May, but with the competition in the NL East as good as it's ever been, the Phillies look more and more like an expensive bunch of also-rans.

So is now the time to jump off the bandwagon? Wait…do the Phillies even have a bandwagon? It seems like the only fans left are the Phillies die-hards, long used to losing. To those who haven't yet given up - you are the few, the proud. If and when the Phillies start winning again, you'll have the quiet satisfaction of having stuck by the team when times were bad. Remember, it's always darkest before the dawn.


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