Have there been any updates over the offseason regarding Roy Halladay's health? Is he involved in any offseason strengthening programs to try to combat the issues from last season recurring?
-- Mike D., Gilbertsville, Pa.
Here is what Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently about Halladay, who battled back and shoulder issues last season: "Doc's done very well. He's going to start throwing off the mound here very shortly. [Pitching coach Rich Dubee] has seen him throw a couple times, at least long toss. I guess he's working down there with Kyle Kendrick pretty extensively. He's doing well, but we don't know what kind of Doc we're going to get until Doc's down firing in Spring Training. But he's feeling pretty good so far."
Darin Ruf appears to be an exciting player and he has exploded at the plate within the last year. Will he be given serious consideration come Spring Training? He seems to be the answer to the power the Phillies are searching for.
-- Shaun N., Mexico
The Phillies will give Ruf a good look, but I think we certainly need to see more from him. Charlie Manuel loves to say a good week, a good month or a good year doesn't make a career. Ruf had a great season with Double-A Reading in 2012. He also impressed in limited action with the Phillies in September. And while he could be one of the best stories the Phillies have had in a long time -- Manuel said at the Winter Meetings he could see Ruf hitting 30 home runs -- it's too early to declare him a savior. In fact, I see a scenario where Ruf starts the season in Triple-A if the Phillies add a corner outfielder before Spring Training.
Who else will be in the mix for the fourth and fifth starters? Kendrick and John Lannan can't be locks for those spots, can they?
-- Sam F., Ambler, Pa.
They can't? If both are healthy, I would bet a pretty penny they open the season in the rotation. For some reason, some have completely ignored the success Kendrick has had the previous two seasons. Kendrick has a 3.62 ERA in 40 starts over the past two seasons. And Lannan has a 3.80 ERA in his career against every team other than the Phillies. If Kendrick matches his success as a starter the previous two seasons and Lannan replicates his success against every other team in baseball, the Phillies should have one of the better rotations in baseball in 2013 -- if Halladay is healthy. But even if Halladay struggles, the rotation should be in decent shape if Kendrick and Lannan perform to those levels.
Who honestly is the best fit for one of the corner-outfield positions in Philly? You hear Alfonso Soriano thrown in there and now Vernon Wells is brought up. Who's the best fit for an everyday right-handed bat with pop?
-- Alex C., Clayton, Del.
That's a good question. If I can get any one of those guys, I probably take Hairston, although I wouldn't necessarily consider him an everyday player. First, you would think he would come at a reasonable price. He has good splits against left-handed pitchers, which is important. The Phillies also tried to acquire him in the past, which is important to remember. The Cubs would have to eat most of the remaining $36 million on Soriano's contract. I like Soriano because he's got the most power, and I think he'd look nice hitting fifth behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Wells would be my third choice. His numbers have dropped remarkably the last two years with a .660 OPS in 2011 and a .682 OPS in '12. Looking at his splits, he might not be much more than a platoon player at this point, although at least he would be a veteran presence with a little bit of a track record.
What are the chances the Phils try to make a trade for Giancarlo Stanton?
-- Max M., Philadelphia
They are probably a little better than finding me in right field this season, but not much. The Marlins already have said they are not trading Stanton, and even if they were, I don't think the Phillies have enough top-tier talent in their system to pry him away from Miami. So don't hold your breath.