Believe it or not, the Phillies received some good injury news yesterday. So what if it came from Texas, where the Rangers announced that star outfielder Nelson Cruz will not be making the trip to Philadelphia, where they open a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park tonight.
This one could be billed as the "What Might Have Been" series, except that Texas will be without three of its biggest stars from last year's postseason, when the Phillies fell two wins short of advancing to their third straight World Series and instead sat at home and watched the Rangers lose to the Giants in five games.
One of those stars will be pitching for the Phillies tomorrow, when Cliff Lee squares off against the team he helped pitch to an American League title. The other two - Cruz and Josh Hamilton - will be rehabbing their respective injuries at Triple A.
Cruz was hitting just .219 when he last appeared in a game on May 3, but he had slugged seven home runs. Last season, he hit .318 with a .950 OPS and 22 home runs. Hamilton, the reigning American League MVP, played in just 11 games before breaking his arm in a play at the plate against the Tigers on April 12. The slugger, who turns 30 tomorrow, hit .359 with a 1.044 OPS and 32 home runs last season. He was hitting .333 with four extra-base hits but no home runs when he got hurt.
"The only thing I'm interested in is beating them, faring good against them," manager Charlie Manuel said when asked if he was curious to see how his team will do against the World Series opponent it never got a chance to face. "That's what I want to see. We've got information on them. We know them quite a bit. We didn't play them last year, but we usually have trouble in interleague play. Last year we had a winning record for the first time in a long time. Hopefully we can be ready to go and play some of these interleague games and do good or better than what we've done in the past against them."
Last year, when they went 10-8, was just the second time in Manuel's first six seasons as manager that the Phillies finished with a winning record in interleague play. In 2008 and 2009, they went a combined 10-23 against the American League. In 2007, they went 8-7. The Phillies will also face Toronto, Seattle, Oakland and Boston later this season.
Chase Utley went 0-for-2 with two walks while playing all nine innings for Class A Clearwater yesterday. In seven games for the Threshers, Utley is 6-for-24 with a home run, double, three RBI, two runs, six strikeouts. He is expected to rejoin the team by the end of the month, although the Phillies have not given a public indication of when, exactly, to expect the second baseman . . . Charlie Manuel said he received good reports on how righthander Jose Contreras threw in his rehab outing for low-A Lakewood on Wednesday, despite the fact that he allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning. Contreras is tentatively scheduled to pitch again tomorrow, after which the Phillies will decide whether he is ready to be activated from the disabled list after a 4-week absence with an elbow strain . . . Righthander Michael Stutes (sore back/side) labeled himself ready to go after throwing a few pitches in the bullpen. The Phillies apparently agreed, sending him in to pitch the eighth inning against the Rockies . . . Shane Victorino underwent an MRI on his sore hamstring yesterday, although the centerfielder had not spoken with doctors about the results prior to the game. Victorino said his hamstring, injured last week in Atlanta, continues to improve.