Philadelphia Baseball Review - Phillies News, Rumors and Analysis
By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
Ryan Howard believes the journey back to the top of NL East begins Monday for the Phillies.

"There's been a lot of talk of underdog role and this and that," said Ryan Howard. "But we've had experience winning. We've had experience being an underdog and a lot of that is talk. Not to take anything away from the Nationals. Those guys had a great season last year and won the division, but that's why we've got to go out there and play the games. It's not 2012 anymore, it's 2013."

Most preseason prognosticators have the Phillies muddling around the middle of the NL East, with age and health being the two primary concerns.

The club finished 81-81 last season and lost Howard, Chase Utley, and Roy Halladay for sizable portions of time. 

"If we stay healthy, we compete," said manager Charlie Manuel. "It's really as simple as that. If guys stay on the field we can compete with anyone and I truly believe that."

Howard says he's 100 percent healed from his torn Achillies and the broken toe that sidelined him for the majority of last season. He showcased his health this spring, hitting .322 with seven home runs and 16 RBIs in 87. 

"He looks fine out there," Manuel said. "I think he's finally over the hump."

The same can be said for Utley who finished spring hitting .268 with five home runs and 17 RBIs.

"I feel great and the knees are good, Utley said.

Halladay's health, however, remains a concern. He pitched poorly this spring and lost weight while battling a stomach virus. 

For the Philllies to succeed Halladay, Utley and Howard all need to perform to their capabilities and stay healthy. If that happens, the NL East will be a three-team race.

"We can compete, no doubt about it," Howard said. "Yeah, we need to stay healthy, but if we are healthy and do all the little things
there's no reason we can't compete."

- Patrick Gordon in managing editor of the Philadelphia Baseball Review. Follow him on Twitter @Philabaseball or email him at

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Philadelphia Baseball Review - Phillies News, Rumors and Analysis