There has been quite a bit of discussion on the Phillies injury situation. Ryan Howard continues to recover from the Achilles surgery, and Chase Utley still has not played this spring because of the troublesome knee.
We wrote about whether or not it was time to freak about Utley, and the truth is that Chase will never have the lower body strength required to be the power hitter he once was.
As far as Howard is concerned, the achilles injury is difficult to bounce back from. Just ask Elton Brand.
Most Phillies fans would agree that Jimmy Rollins is the leader of this team. Speaking with Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, the leader was not optimistic about Howard's injury…. at all.
"I don't know what to think, honestly," Rollins says. "If you ask me, with this infection, I don't know if he's going to play this year, because after all the work that he's done, now he's got to hit the reset button."
"I mean, the leg is naturally going to atrophy if it's in a boot all this time and you're not getting the full use out of it," Rollins says. "So he's built up strength, but it's not like he was 100 percent [before]. Now he needs to take a step back, and he's probably back down to the 25 to 40 percent range. …
"And it's a tough injury," Rollins goes on. "It's not like he's 150 pounds. He's a big man. And that's a very important part of his game, being able to be on his legs. He doesn't use his legs for speed like me. He uses his legs for power. So if he doesn't have any [strength in his] legs, all that power just goes away."
Stark points out in his column that the Phillies disagree with this take on the situation, but what does that mean to us? Nothing. I think I'll use common sense mixed in with Rollins' take and conclude Howard won't be back as quick as the Phillies are telling us.
"You can come back from this injury," Rollins says. "There's no doubt. But I don't think you come back at the rate and have the success and the strength in your leg and the confidence that it won't happen again.
"Over the long term, [he'll] … be fine," Rollins says. "But that's where 'long term' is meaning, like, a year and a half. That's when he'll do something and he'll say, 'You know what? That didn't bother me.' And that's when you know you're fine, and you can go out there every single day and not have to worry about it."
What about Utley? That knee is an issue, and even though the team is saying they're just trying to limit his reps, it's an area of major concern. Here's what we know about Utley and the injury: it won't get better. The pain can be managed, but an arthritic knee does not magically get better. The team knows it, and it's something they've been surprisingly straight forward about. The question is why not let him play? Why not let him work on his swing? Something does not seem right, and Rollins seemed just as concerned.
"It's really the same thing as last year," Rollins says. "[Utley's knee trouble] is just one of those things where the more you use it, the more it's going to nag you. And like last year, trying to plant and turn a double play is going to really give him problems. And going to his right and trying to throw back to first — going to get that ball and not having any legs to throw, he's probably not going to try to make that play anymore.
"So I think his [injury] is more of a long-term thing. It's like the opposite of Ryan. Ryan's is more of a shorter-term type of injury. You heal it. It gets fixed. And after a while, you have the confidence you're not hurt. With something like Chase, you've got your degenerative hip and the knee that's on the same side, and they're all related.
"You've got [a muscle] that runs from the hip to the inside of the knee and it's putting all types of different pressures on it. So you shave the hipbone down, but the muscle length is still the same. And the muscles treat the body like it's … normal. Regardless of what the hipbone says, the muscle hasn't changed. So that's something that's not going to change."
But back to Howard…
He spoke with reporters today, and basically said there is no reason to worry about his walking boot.
“Right now, we’re just waiting for the skin to heal up,” Howard said. “That’s really what the purpose of the boot is. I think people see me in the boot think it’s a lot worse than what it really is. Right now, we’re just trying to protect the skin and protect the wound and let it heal up. Once it heals up then I’ll be out of the boot.”
I'm still concerned. Sorry, Ryan.
One additional point that I found very interesting from Stark's article was Rollins acknowledging the Phillies need to change. This team is not the team from 2008, and can't win with the longball. In late February, Charlie Manuel met with Rollins privately about leading this team and being more selective, but that hasn't seemed to translate very well. On Monday morning, Manuel voiced his frustration with the Phillies offense so far this spring.
So, Rollins saying the team needs to win in a different way is extremely nice to see.
"It might not look pretty. It might not look fantastic. But … that's how I want to be. We used to be that team that looked pretty. But now it's just A-B-C-D. No fireworks. No extra stuff. Just do it."
Of course, J-Roll™ has been known to stir the pot, and all of this injury talk could be the leader's way of lighting a fire under Howard and Utley.
There's usually a method to his madness.
Here's video (via Ryan Lawrence) of Howard speaking with the media about resuming rehab.