Opening week saw familiar Phillies highs and lows

The Phillies return to Philadelphia today tomorrow to open up Citizens Bank Park for another season of baseball. They will do so with a record of 3-3 after opening up the first week of the season on the road in Texas and Chicago with some mixed results. We saw a little bit of everything that is good and bad with the Phillies, or perhaps everything this team has been expected to be.

I cannot help but feel the Phillies should make their home debut owning a winning record. Sunday’s game in Wrigley was nothing pretty but it is the two games in Texas that really bother me early on. Jonathan Papelbon blowing a save in his first opportunity of the year in a truly abysmal display caused quite the uproar last week, deservingly so. The mismanagement of the bullpen the night before was also puzzling with Ryne Sandberg deciding to send Mario Hollands out for his major league debut in the bottom of the ninth of a tied game against the heart of the Texas Rangers order coming up. I am just guessing Sandberg would like to have that decision back, but it also may have paid off in how he reacted to it the following day. Instead of shying away from Hollands the following day, Sandberg put him right back on the mound knowing the debut jitters were probably behind him. Hollands has pitched twice since making his debut and he has thrown 1.2 innings of relief without allowing a hit.

Sandberg has also not been afraid of tinkering with his line-up on a day-to-day basis. Six games in to the season and the Phillies have used six different line-ups. Playing three games in an American League park helps of course, with the ability to use a designated hitter, as does the early unavailability of Jimmy Rollins, but the constant line-up changing early on could be an indication that Sandberg is not afraid to try different things. I know he has done this before as manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, but I wonder if this will be his trend all season long or if he will eventually settle on a standard line-up that will be used routinely.

Some other brief observations or thoughts from the first week of the season…

Chase Utley is off to a great start. The second baseman already leads the team in home runs with two and batting average, hitting .458. Utley has driven in six RBI and hit three doubles. At some point he figures to slow down, but the early hot start is a promising development.

Domonic Brown has quietly gotten off to a decent start, hitting .381. You are not seeing great power out of Brown’s bat and he has struck out three times, but if he can consistently produce he would be a big boost to the offense.

Cody Asche got off to a great start in his first opening day by going 3-for-4 with a home run, a double four runs scored. In the four games he has played since then though, Asche has just two hits in 15 at-bats and he has struck out six times. It is certainly too early to panic about anything going on with the team, but here’s hoping Asche turns things around at the plate soon.

One reliever I have been impressed with early on is Antonio Bastardo. Every season I wonder “Maybe this will be the year Bastardo is a consistent force out of the bullpen.” In three appearances thus far, Bastardo has thrown 3.1 shutout innings with three strikeouts and three walks. He made his season debut in a tough spot in Texas and managed to hold down the ship in an offensive back-and-forth season opener. If he can come in and settle things down with authority, that would be great for the bullpen.

Quick thoughts

Very impressed with Kyle Kendrick in his season debut in Texas, but I feel like I have seen that show before.

Cliff Lee bounced back from his season opener performance just as I imagined he would. He’s also 2-0.

Liked Roberto Hernandez‘s debut, but far too early to determine his impact on this rotation.

John Mayberry has come through with some big hits early on. Try not to be fooled too much.

Still feel the Phillies should be no less than 4-2, but at least they are not 2-4.

Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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