Play Ball! That sound officially begins today for most of Major League Baseball today at many ballparks across baseball.  The Philadelphia Phillies travel across Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of the 2012 season for both teams.  The Phillies have a lot of hopes going into this season.  The majority of baseball experts are picking the Philadelphia Phillies again to be the favorite to be in the World Series for the National League and why not.  Well there are others who feel that the Phillies are right for the taken this year and why not.  The start of the 162 game regular season schedule begins today with also one more playoff spot availabe too, with the MLB adding another team to the playoffs starting this season.

     The Phillies will begin the 2012 season with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on the DL.  The two big horses on this team and that this team needs to be successful this season.  Utley has been fighting knee problems all spring and there were rumors that even his career was in jeopardy.  Ryan Howard is still recovering from his ruptored achilles that happened on the last out of last years divisional game five defeat to the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinal.  The Phillies in the early part of this season will no doubt depend on their strong starting pitching to carry them through the early stages of the season until Utley and Howard return to the lineup.

     The Phillies will start John Mayberry at first base in Ryan Howard's spot and will platoon in left field Juan Pierre and Layne Nix.   In Chase Utley's spot the Phillies have decided to give young prospect and hopeful Freddy Galvis his shot.  The Phillies can not go with him for the entire season.  That would be totally expecting too much and putting to much preasure on this young kid.

     The Phillies during the off season also added a proven closer and all star to their pitching staff.  Reuben Amaro Jr knew that the Phillies needed a proven closer in the back of their bullpen.  The Phillies went out and signed the best available closer in former Boston Red Sox closer Jonathon Papelbon.  In Papelbon the Phillies have a total proven closer and he no doubt will make a huge difference on this team.

     Reuben Amaro Jr and Charlie Manuel also knew that the Phillies needed to have a strong bench and players who if called upon would perform and do the job.  The Phillies went out and brought back a player who was here in Philadelphia before and was a fan favorite and was responsible for the Phillies being a factor again and getting players to finally wanting to come to Philadelphia and play baseball.  Jim Thome was signed and he is a proven left handed bat off the bench.  He can play a little bit a first base too.  The Phillies also signed Ty Wigginton who can play any of the infield positions and has a good glove and good bat.  The Phillies also signed Juan Pierre who can steal some bases and give you some games in the outfield.

     What the Phillies have that most of Major League Baseball wishes and does not have is very strong starting pitching.  This starting pitching is why this team is favored by so many to be the team to beat.  The rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Vance Worley are the horses of this rotation.  Vance Worley last season had a strong season and there is so much potential there with him and hope.  No preassure on this staff.  He can just go out there and be himself and pitch.  The Phillies middle innings in 2012 will be filled by Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Joe Savery, and Joe Blanton.  Blanton will be the fifth starter in the rotation when it is needed.

     There is very good reason why this team is the favorite and there is also every reason why this team could be defeated.  Age and injuries is the main question for the Philadelphia Phillies.  This spring training there has been injuries and those players need to heal because they are the key to the season.  With this strong starting rotation you would be crazy not to favor the Phillies this season.  Having a strong closer totally helps too.  Winning championships in baseball are done with strong pitching and the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies have that.  Lets play ball and the boys of summer are back.