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Outta’ Right Field: Phillies underdog status a good thing

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Cole Hamels and the Phillies will look to return to the playoffs after an 81-81 season in 2012. (MCT)

Cole Hamels and the Phillies will look to return to the playoffs after an 81-81 season in 2012. (MCT)

The dawn of baseball season is just two weeks away and after a disappointing 2012 season for the Phillies, 2013 serves as a clean slate.

The problem is that both experts and fans alike have frowned upon the Phillies’ offseason moves including veteran third baseman Michael Young, outfielders Ben Revere and Delmon Young, reliever Mike Adams and starter John Lannan.

The moves the Phillies made are not bold. They did not acquire one of the Upton brothers, both playing for the rival Atlanta Braves now. They did not sign a second-tier outfielder like Angel Pagan, Cody Ross or Nick Swisher.

For the first time in Ruben Amaro Jr.’s tenure as general manager, the Phillies didn’t make a splash. And that has earned them underdog status.

And that may actually be beneficial to the team’s pending success in 2013.

Think about why the Phillies failed in 2012. They lacked a bullpen. They weren’t healthy at all. Players struggled uncharacteristically. Take one of those off the list and the Phillies likely win one of the two wildcard spots last season.

The Phillies did improve the bullpen with Adams. They bolstered the lineup in a different way. The approach is now on hitting for contact, not belting out home runs. Forget three runs on one swing and think more one-hit-at-a-time.

It may not be the routine that Phillies fans became familiar with from 2007 to 2011 but it is the approach that the current state of the team must take.

Small ball doesn’t work with home run hitters. That was the approach that doomed the Phillies in 2012. But with contact hitters like Michael Young and Revere, as well as a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, maybe things will click the way they did during the five-year division-title run.

It is too soon to tell because paper doesn’t tell all. But as the team prepares to take the field in preparation for a new season, keep in mind that the Phillies, despite an 81-81 2012 season and lackluster offseason, shouldn’t be overlooked.

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