Sep 012010

Phillies 3B Placido Polanco

September 1 Philadelphia Daily News

“The diagnosis Placido Polanco offered last night was the same one he has offered for the better part of the season.

How’s the elbow? “Sore,” he said.

Any more or less sore than usual? “The same,” he said.

Are there any remedies besides painkillers and ice? “Surgery,” he said, with a grim smile.

And so Polanco, who has played through the pain nearly all season, remains in the same situation as the rest of the players in the Phillies lineup, needing to battle through various ailments and rediscover the offensive swagger that has eluded them lately.

The third baseman entered last night 5-for-32 with an uncharacteristic six strikeouts in eight games since he entered the Astros game Aug. 23 as a substitute. Those numbers aren’t much different from the ones posted by two other recently injured stars. Chase Utley entered last night 5-for-31 with eight strikeouts since the start of the Astros series. Ryan Howard was 2-for-28 with 14 strikeouts during that stretch.

Thought all three showed signs of shaking off the doldrums with hits last night, in the eight previous games, the three infielders combined to reach base 24 times, nine of them coming on walks by Utley.

In that light, the view Charlie Manuel took before last night’s game makes some sense. Sure, he could had given rookie outfielder Domonic Brown his first start in 10 games. But if the Phillies’ bats are to awaken in time to put a charge into their stretch run, it will be because their established stars return to form. And Manuel has been unequivocal in his belief that the best way to return to form is to keep on playing.

“I want to play Domonic some, but at the same time I look at our lineup, and, like I’ve said before, that’s our lineup,” the manager said. “Like I’ve said before, too, I think he’s going to be a tremendous player. I think he needs experience, but also I think that if we are going to get it done, that’s our team. I believe in that lineup, and I think that’s the one that’s carried us in the past, and I think that’s how it’s got to be. I’ve stuck with some guys all year long. I don’t see the sense in not playing them now.”

The unpredictable variable is health. Offseason surgery looks definite for Polanco, who, despite his recent struggles, has been the Phillies‘ most consistent performer this season. Howard has said several times over the past week that his biggest hurdles are more timing and rhythm than any lingering pain in the sprained ankle that sidelined him for 3 weeks. Utley, who returned from thumb surgery more than a week ahead of schedule, is the biggest unknown. In the first 13 games since his activation from the DL, the second baseman was only 9-for-49. He was still finding his way on base, having drawn nine walks and one hit by pitch. But he hasn’t been driving the ball with his usual force (his only two extra-base hits during that stretch were doubles). The usually tightlipped Utley declined to answer questions from a reporter before last night’s game.”

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