- Associated Press - Thursday, August 25, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - They have four aces, two former MVPs and a roster stacked with guys who’ve made numerous All-Star teams and earned plenty of awards.

It’s no surprise the Philadelphia Phillies are heading toward their fifth straight NL East title and have the best record (83-45) in baseball. But for all the high-profile talent in red pinstripes, the no-name guys have been just as vital to Philadelphia’s success.

Rookie starter Vance Worley is 9-1 with a 2.65 ERA. Twenty-five year-old lefty Antonio Bastardo (5-0, 1.45) has eight saves in nine chances. Rookie righty Michael Stutes is 5-1 in 45 relief appearances.

John Mayberry Jr. has been red-hot lately, hitting .312 with nine homers and 29 RBIs in the last 32 games. Infielders Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez have made significant contributions, too.

“We’ve had guys that have stepped up, and that’s great,” Mayberry said. “We definitely love to get the opportunity to go out there and play. We’ve been doing all right lately.”

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt get all the attention. Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence are stars.

Yet the youngsters are doing their part … and then some.

“I think when players get a chance, they always come around,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I shouldn’t say always. There are guys who come around. Vance is definitely one of those guys. Bastardo is one of those guys. Stutes is one of those guys. And definitely Mayberry is one of those guys. Mayberry has been sent out three times, and all of a sudden, he’s starting to hit the ball and he’s in a good streak. His talent is coming out. That’s kind of how I look at Vance as a pitcher.”

Injuries have been a problem. Three of the five members of the projected starting rotation have spent time on the disabled list with Joe Blanton missing most of the season. Six of the eight original regulars have also been on the DL at one point. The bullpen was so decimated that the Phillies were down to their fourth closer (Bastardo) in the first half.

Overall, 15 players have been on the DL for 20 stints. And, the Phillies still keep winning thanks to the fill-ins who’ve come up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and the bottom-of-the-roster guys who’ve stepped up when called upon.

“You don’t expect to see so many injuries in a season and see a bunch of guys come up,” Worley said. “But that’s basically what Triple-A is, it’s basically guys that belong in the big leagues, too, and when something like that happens, they’re going to be here.”

The Phillies and their fans, who’ve sold out the last 203 home games, won’t be satisfied with anything less than winning the World Series. High expectations certainly don’t make it any easier on the rookies and backups.

“No, it ain’t easy,” Worley said. “It’s always tough to come up and fill in shoes, and when the team is expected to win, you’re going to feel a little bit of pressure. But once you get those runs on the board, it takes a little stress off your shoulders.”

When the Phillies opened the season, Domonic Brown was the one rookie expected to play a major role. Brown was supposed to replace Jayson Werth as the everyday right fielder. Werth signed as a free agent with Washington. But Brown began the season on the DL and struggled when he was healthy. He was sent back to Triple-A when the Phillies acquired Pence from Houston.

Meanwhile, Mayberry was sent to the minors three times after getting the game-winning hit in the season opener. Now he’s found a spot as the fourth outfielder and backup first baseman.

Story Continues →