The season is a quarter spent. Many baseball people say it takes 50 games to get a feel for a team; that arbitrary milestone looms in a week. As the Phillies get ready to open a series tonight against the New York Mets at Citi Field, here's a look at the questions, concerns and issues facing the defending National League champions:

1Is the starting pitching good enough?

Good enough to make the playoffs? Probably. Roy Halladay is Roy Halladay, despite a tough go of it his last time out. Cole Hamels seems to be getting himself together. Jamie Moyer is having another amazing renaissance and Joe Blanton is solid and dependable.

At the same time, Moyer is 47 years old. So you never know. And J.A. Happ remains a significant question mark with a left forearm strain. So there have to be worries about whether the rotation has the depth to withstand the rigors of a land-mined season and still go deep into the postseason or even make it back to the World Series for the third straight year.

2 Will they add a starter before the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline? After all, they've made an in-season move (Moyer, Kyle Lohse, Blanton, Cliff Lee) each of the last 4 years.

Don't hold your breath. The Phillies made their headline acquisition for 2010 last December when they got Halladay. And forget all this speculation about getting Lee back for the stretch drive if the Mariners fall out of contention.

If Seattle does decide to trade Lee, who can be a free agent at the end of the season, they'll want a decent package of prospects in return. And don't forget, one of the stated reasons for flipping him in the first place was to begin restocking a farm system that has been ransacked in deals that helped the Phillies win three straight division titles.

In short, the Phillies don't appear to have the minor leaguers it would take to make a deal for Lee or any other top-flight starter.

The best option might just be a return engagement for Pedro Martinez, who, according to reports, hasn't ruled out pitching again.

3 Will Brad Lidge return as the closer?

If he can, it would be a nice boost. But at this point, it would have to be considered a bonus.

Lidge will throw bullpens tonight and Thursday in New York. If all goes well, he could start a rehab assignment this weekend. Lidge said the elbow inflammation that landed him on the disabled list for the second time this season is gone and that he's confident that problem is now behind him.

We'll see. The reality is that it's been almost a year-and-a-half since Lidge has been consistently effective. Until he proves he's back in actual games, it's hard to count on him.

That, and the fact that setup man Ryan Madson is sidelined by a broken right big toe, are why rumors like the one that had the Phillies scouting White Sox relievers Bobby Jenks and J.J. Putz are likely to continue to surface for a while.

4 How much concern should there be over shortstop Jimmy Rollins?

A lot. It's not just that he has strained his right calf twice now. It's that he has done it in mundane ways. Limbering up before a game. Running to first on a basehit. So even if he comes off the disabled list in 2 weeks and it doesn't bother him again all season, it's got to be in the back of the Phillies' minds that it could pop again at any time.

And everybody understands how much Rollins brings to the team.

5 Who's the key hitter to watch the rest of the season?

Leftfielder Raul Ibanez. In his first 62 games with the Phillies, he batted .312 with 22 homers and 59 RBI. Then he went on the disabled list with what was described at the time as a strained left groin. He came back on July 11, played hurt the rest of the year and had surgery to repair a sports hernia at the end of the season.

In 114 games since he came back from the DL, he's hitting .237 with 15 homers and 54 RBI.

Whether he can bounce back will help determine not only how well the offense functions for the remainder of the season, it could well impact how the Phillies approach negotiations with potential free agent Jayson Werth.


After completing a three-game rehab assignment with Triple A Lehigh Valley, backup catcher Brian Schneider (left Achilles' strain) has been activated from the disabled list and will be in uniform tonight in New York. Catcher Paul Hoover has been designated for assignment, meaning the Phillies have 10 days to attempt to get him through waivers.