Happy Opening Day! And what an unusual Opening Day it was for the Phillies.
The Phillies sent Roy Halladay to the mound to face ex-Phillie Brett Myers of the Astros. What initially looked like it might be a bad day despite great pitching, the Phillies pulled out a win in walk-off fashion to open the 2011 season.
The first hit off Halladay came off the bat of Myers. And from there, more drama ensued. In fact, Myers wound up with two of the five hits Halladay allowed through six innings. Myers allowed only three hits and one earned run through seven innings.
But for the Phillies offense, hits were few and far between making fans wonder if all the hard work assembling this amazing pitching staff was going to pay off. If Halladay only allows one run but the offense cannot score any runs, wins will be hard to come by.
Only Ryan Howard and Wilson Valdez got any hits through the first six innings. The Valdez hit was a double in the third inning, but they were unable to score him. A bad call at first base where Halladay was called out did not help the situation.
Also not a huge help were a strange variety of Phillies mistakes. Ben Francisco missed a fly ball in right early in the game, prompting chants of, “Bring back Werth!” from the crowd. Valdez let a ball slip right between his legs and Shane Victorino got caught stealing. Later, poor Carlos Ruiz took a bouncing relay to the plate in what looks like an uncomfortable position:
None of this was good news for the Phillies. But in the seventh, Myers started to tire and the Phils finally manufactured a few runs. By the ninth inning, down 4-2, the Phillies probably started to imagine the backlash if they were to lose on Opening Day after Halladay pitched a great game. Suddenly, the hits started coming.
Jimmy Rollins started off the inning with a single to inspire the team. Howard, Francisco and Ruiz followed suit. The hit for Francisco was especially huge as it redeemed him from the previous error in the eyes of the crowd.
Valdez stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. Visions of the 20 double plays Valdez hit into last year began to haunt the crowd who held their collective breath. But perhaps the DP curse is over, because Valdez nailed and RBI single to tie the game.
All the Phillies needed now was a hit or a sac fly from John Mayberry Jr. With his father, former major leaguer John Mayberry Sr., and mother looking on, Mayberry Jr. smashed a 2-2 fastball to center field, over the head of former Phillie Michael Bourn. Francisco scored and Mayberry had his first major league walk-off hit in his first game ever as an Opening Day roster player.
The walk-off win was the first on Opening Day since May 6, 1974, when Mike Schmidt hit a two-run home run against Tug McGraw to beat the Mets at Veterans Stadium. But with the high expectations for this 2011 team, this walk-off victory will go down as one of the most memorable in Phillies history.
The stunned Astros team will probably have nightmare’s tonight knowing they face Cliff Lee on Saturday. Game time is 7:05pm.
Here is the full Photo Album from Opening Day.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
With pain in his right shoulder, closer Brad Lidge will start the 2011 season on the disabled list. With Lidge’s long history of injuries, this new issue should be a huge red light to the Phillies that Lidge’s time is close to being over.
Lidge was especially concerned with this new injury saying, “I haven’t had shoulder problems in the past.” Although, Lidge has had surgery on both knees multiple times, elbow surgery, an oblique strain, a strained intercostal muscle and bicep tendinitis, just to name a few.
Still, Lidge entered spring training boasting that he was healthy and felt great. Exactly when that may have changed is hard to tell. Lidge is an eternal optimist so what he says should maybe be taken with a grain of salt.
Here is a little help for those who cannot always decipher what Lidge is talking about.
The Brad Lidge Translator
Lidge Says: I feel great.
Lidge Means: The pain is unbearable!
Lidge Says: I am not concerned.
Lidge Means: I am totally freaking out here!
Lidge Says: No need to panic.
Lidge Means: Red alert, red alert…PANIC!!!
Lidge Says: It is a setback.
Lidge Means: This is the END of my career!
Lidge Says: This is disappointing.
Lidge Means: I am going to crawl into a hole with a vat of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and eat and cry until I vomit.
With Lidge out of the picture, closing duties will fall either to Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras. While it is good to know the Phillies have options, this does create major issues in the bullpen. The Phillies failed to re-sign Chad Durbin, which may come back to haunt them as they now have to rely on less experienced arms in the middle innings.
The Lidge injury is magnified when you think about the loss of Chase Utley, Domonic Brown and questions still lingering about Placido Polanco’s elbow.
So, should Phillies fans be worried? The short answer is, not yet.
The team seems to have back-up for Utley. Luis Castillo finally got a hit today and also walked twice while showing solid defense in the field. Wilson Valdez continues to impress as well.
As for Brown, Ben Francisco is doing well in what may have been Brown’s spot in the outfield. John Mayberry Jr. is also capable and the two may wind up rotating in right field.
Another good sign is that Polanco did play today in the 3-1 victory over the Braves. Polly looked a bit tentative and was sore after the game, but he expects to play again on Sunday. Or perhaps, much like Lidge, I am being a tad too optimistic about all this? I hope not.
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography
In yesterday’s spring training game against the Astros, pitcher Cole Hamels had words with second baseman Bill Hall. Hamels threw a pitch up and in which did not even come that close to Hall, but he apparently took offense.
Hamels blew off the incident saying Hall was a “good guy.” Hall reacted a bit differently. According to the veteran infielder, “He’s (Hamels) definitely a marked man for me now. So when I do some damage off him I’m going to let him know I did some damage off him. I guarantee that. I’m not going to let him disrespect me. If you disrespect me I’m going to do my best to disrespect you back.”
In nine years in the majors, Hall is a lifetime .250 hitter. I am not sure what “damage” Hall is referring to and I am guessing we will not find out anytime in this decade. For a 31-year old, below-average player, these are certainly very immature remarks. Hall is not worthy to lick Cole’s muddy cleats.
The grocery list of Phillies player injuries has just grown a bit longer. It began with Chase Utley’s bum knee, moved on to a broken hand bone for Domonic Brown, a sore neck for Ben Francisco and now, Brad Lidge has joined the party.
According to Phillies sources, Lidge has bicep tendinitis. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said, “He generally has it in the spring,” indicating that this is business as usual for Lidge. The Phillies insist it is not serious. Then again, we have heard that one before.
There are also reports that Lidge’s fastball is not up to speed. Combined with his injury history and the fact that he has yet to get through an entire spring training with the Phillies healthy, there may be reason for concern.
Speaking of Lidge’s history, did you know that Lidge missed parts of his first four professional seasons, from 2002 to 2005, with a variety of injuries? These included a torn rotator cuff, right shoulder tendinitis and a broken forearm that almost ended his career.
Here is a closer look at some of Lidge’s injury history:
– 2002, a strained intercostal muscle near the rib cage.
– December 2003, arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
– June – July 2005, shut down with elbow issues.
– May 2007, bone bruise on his right femur near his knee.
– June – July 2007, left oblique strain.
– October 2007, surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.
– February 2008, tore the meniscus in the same knee he just had surgery on during his first pitch off a mound in spring training.
– June 2009, sprained right knee and a sore elbow, specifically the flexor pronator tendon.
– January 2010, surgery on both the elbow and the right knee again.
– March 2010, the elbow is still an issue and Lidge gets a cortisone injection.
– March 2011, bicep tendinitis.
While history does not always predict the future, the long list of injuries is a bit scary. The amount of time Lidge has missed is an issue as well.
Of the top ten closers in baseball who remained basically healthy in 2010, the average number of innings pitched for each closer was about 68.2 innings per year. Lidge pitched only 45.2 last year and 58.2 in 2009.
The current injury for Lidge may indeed be nothing to worry about. Phillies fans certainly hope that is the case. But at the rate Phillies players are dropping, any injury is scary.
Adding to the Phillies woes, Placido Polanco left a spring game early today after hyperextending the same elbow he had surgery on this offseason. Just like Lidge, the Phillies say he is not expected to miss much time.
For both Lidge and Polanco, many are hoping that history will not repeat itself.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
While hitting a foul ball in Saturday’s spring training game against the Pirates, Domonic Brown fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. Oddly enough, his very next swing after breaking the bone resulted in his only hit in spring action through 16 at-bats.
Several baseball players have had this very same bone removed in the past. Some of those include former Phillie, Jim Thome and Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia. Apparently, the hand is just fine without this bone, although recovery from the surgery could take four to six weeks.
This may be a blessing in disguise for Brown who was struggling badly to adjust his swing and make the Phillies roster before the end of camp. Time off to reflect on his issues may be a good thing.
In the meantime, the job in right almost certainly will go to Ben Francisco, although the Phillies will not dub anyone the winner just yet.
Thus far, the injury bug has bitten twice for the Phillies in spring training; first Chase Utley and his bum knee, then Brown. Utley is still recovering from a cortisone injection and it will be several more days before any more is known about his knee.
On the bright side, the Phillies pitching staff looks fantastic! Cliff Lee appeared to be almost in mid-season form against the Rays today over four innings. And on Saturday Roy Halladay threw three scoreless innings, allowing only one hit.
In the bullpen, JC Romero pitched today and looked very, very sharp. After going 3-0 on the first batter, he came back to strike the guy out and then mowed down the next two batters in order.
Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras also seem to be moving along well. Neither has surrendered a run yet.
Other roster hopefuls are not having much success though. Eddie Bonine has allowed seven runs in four innings of work. J.C. Ramirez has allowed four runs in five innings. However, most of these guys were not expected to make the team anyway.
Spring action continues tomorrow when the Phillies see the Yankees again. Game time is 1:05pm.
Illustration by Wikipedia
Over the last two days, both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee saw their first spring training action on the mound. Halladay went two scoreless against his old team, the Blue Jays. And Lee gave up two runs in two innings today against the Tigers. Both Phillies aces are in the beginning stages of working out the kinks before the regular season.
But while some are easing their way into baseball shape, others need to play well now. Ben Francisco has taken the proverbial bull by the horns right from the start, as he is competing for the job in right field. Francisco is batting .400 with four hits and five RBI in ten at-bats.
As for his competition, Domonic Brown has yet to get a hit. He is 0 for 12. John Mayberry Jr. has not done too much either, hitting just .250. It looks like the job may be Francisco’s if the young guys do not step it up, fast.
Chase Utley is still resting after being diagnosed with right knee tendonitis. He is able to hit, but not doing any running. The issue has been downplayed by Utley and team management, but this may be something to keep a close eye on.
I had a few thoughts about how to keep Chase Utley healthy. Here are a few ideas:
Clone him. Use a different Utley clone each day to keep him fresh!
The Bionic Man: Replace bum body parts with super-powerful bionic parts:
Iron Man armor:
Store Utley in a protective bubble:
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography
Also, if you are looking for some cool Phillies tees, check out The Phightins for some unique designs.
Hope springs eternal for all 30 MLB teams this time of year. Spring is a time of rebirth, renewal and new beginnings. At the first crack of the bat, anything is possible.
For the Phillies, 2011 could be all that and more. The potential of this team is unlimited. But potential does not guarantee success, as execution and a little bit of luck will play a major role in the outcome.
However, the Phillies do have plenty of reasons to be hopeful. Here are five good omens for the Phillies as they begin spring training.
If you have not heard all about the Phillies starting rotation, you are probably living in a cave. The media frenzy in Clearwater, Florida is in full swing but luckily, the players are not buying all the hype.
In a press conference on Monday, all five starters, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, looked very relaxed. They were so laid back that if one of them had dozed off, it would not have been surprising.
And it would be hard to blame any of these guys for taking a cat nap while reporters asked Lee all the same questions he has been answering repeatedly since signing in December. It became so redundant that a media member actually asked him if he liked the food in Philadelphia. Lee responded with, “I like Philly cheese steaks, but that had nothing to do with me coming back to Philadelphia.”
The fact that none of these pitchers take the attention too seriously is a very good omen for the Phillies. This rotation understands what it takes to win and how to avoid distractions, like ridiculous questions from baseball-starved reporters.
Their nonchalance in the face of all the hype is even more impressive when you add in the overwhelming talent and potential of this group which includes three Cy Young awards, 13 All-Star selections and three postseason MVP awards.
In short, things look very good for the 2011 Phillies pitching staff.
Jimmy Rollins Becomes An Early Bird
Known almost as much for his consistent lateness as his batting average, Jimmy Rollins has never been a timely guy. He is normally the last player to report to camp every year. But for the first time in his Phillies career, Rollins arrived early.
Not only did Rollins show up a full week early but he arrived in excellent physical condition as a result of a more disciplined off-season routine. At 32-years of age and entering a contract year, Rollins obviously realizes the importance of the 2011 season.
It is important for Rollins as an individual and also for the team as a whole. After a very bad, injury plagued 2010, J-Roll needs to get back to being the engine that makes this Phillies offense go.
Arriving early to camp is a good sign that he is ready to do just that.
Brad Lidge Is Healthy
In his first year with the Phillies in 2008, Brad Lidge threw just one pitch off the mound in Spring Training and just like that, he tore the meniscus in his right knee. Lidge recovered well from surgery and went on to pitch the best season of his career and help the Phillies win a World Championship.
But in 2009, Lidge had a complete reversal of fortune. By the end of June, Lidge had blown six saves and landed on the disabled list again with a sprained right knee. Lidge finished the year with season with an 0-8 record, an ERA of 7.21 and he converted 31 saves in 42 opportunities.
Lidge then spent most of the first half of 2010 on the DL after elbow surgery. And although he finished the season much improved from 2009, questions about his healthy still lingered.
This year, Lidge reported to camp healthy and raring to go. When asked about the upcoming 2011 season, Lidge responded, ” Fans should be pumped up. I know I am.”
And if Lidge can channel his 2008 form while avoiding injury, the Phillies will have the anchor they need at the end of the bullpen to help propel them to another post-season.
Versatility And Depth
The Phillies have a handful of players in camp that they feel can fill multiple roles. Last year, Wilson Valdez was a lifesaver filling in for injured players and short stop, second base and third base.
This spring, the Phillies have decided to try him out in centerfield as well, in case Shane Victorino goes down. With Jayson Werth off to the Nationals, options in center are slim and Valdez has a rocket for an arm.
John Mayberry Jr. is another player who could fill other roles. Normally an outfielder, Mayberry played first base in college and will see time there this spring to add to his versatility.
Delwyn Young, a non-roster invitee, might be another possibility. He has played infield and outfield, although the odds of him making the team are not very good.
Still, the fact that the Phillies have a number of viable options for their bench is a good thing. And their willingness to experiment, moving players around, means they have confidence in this group they have assembled.
Competition In Right Field
Competition is good. It breeds motivation. Players like Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr. and Ross Gload have plenty of motivation since the departure of Jayson Werth.
The huge, gaping hole in right field is theirs for the taking. It will be a matter of whoever plays the best wins. The starting spot could go to one player or maybe two in a platoon situation.
Brown is especially anxious to show what he is made of. After a less than inspiring major league stint at the end of 2010 and then a bad showing in the Dominican Winter League which he left early, Brown has something to prove.
Only three days after leaving the Dominican Winter League, Brown went straight to Clearwater to work on his swing. With the help of hitting coach Greg Gross, Brown found the flaw in his swing and has spent the last two months fixing it.
There is nothing like a little competition to bring out the best in a ball player. Each of the right field-hopefuls have their work cut out for them.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies locked up their final arbitration eligible player today by signing pitcher Kyle Kendrick to a one-year, $2.45 million dollar deal. Ben Francisco signed this past Saturday as well. His contract is also for one-year and totals $1.175 million.
To start the year, Kendrick will wind up in one of two places. If Joe Blanton is traded, Kendrick will be the favorite to win the fifth starters spot. If Blanton stays, Kendrick can take over the long-man job in the bullpen vacated by the still unsigned Chad Durbin.
The nice part about avoiding arbitration for the Phillies is having less drama going into Spring Training. This is especially true for Kendrick who, in years past of travelling back and forth to the minors, seemed constantly conflicted about his role with the team.
The only thing Kendrick has to worry about now is pitching. This kind of focus, without the unnecessary distraction of a hearing, is exactly what Kendrick needs to be successful.
It has been a busy offseason for Kendrick. He got married to Stephanie LaGrossa, bringing the second Survivor contestant into the Phillies family. Heidi Hamels is the other former Survivor. And now, Kendrick can add “millionaire” to his resume.
But the best part of his new-found stability is that Kendrick will probably not fall for any more “you have been traded to Japan” pranks.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography