Tagged: Erik Kratz

Weekend Prelude to Opening Day

The Phillies hosted two exhibition games this weekend, signaling the end of Spring Training and the start of the regular season on Monday. As they have the past several years, the Phillies planned a number of special events and surprises on Friday and Saturday.

Friday began with the On-Deck Reception, hosted by the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. There were players signing autographs, several Q & A sessions with players and coaches, and an on-field introduction of the entire team:

I personally got autographs from Domonic Brown (and a photo as well), Erik Kratz, John Mayberry Jr. and Antonio Bastardo. This was my first time attending this particular event and it was well worth the effort. The only bummer of the day was I discovered that the autofocus on my very expensive camera had died :O( Ugh. So I apologize in advance for 2 days worth of so-so photos, as I had to use my mediocre eye sight to manually focus a very large lens.

The prior to the evenings game, players wandered around the stadium greeting fans and some stopped for photos. I had my picture taken with John Lannan, Antonio Bastardo, Humberto Quintero and hitting coach Wally Joyner.

Cliff Lee started the game that night and looked ready to go for the season. But his real highlight was helping Cole Hamels man the Phanatic’s hot dog shooter between innings:

To be honest, the game was rather boring, so the hot dog-interlude was a very welcome distraction. The Phils lost 1-0.

More fun was happening prior to Saturday’s game as well. After some very stealth stalking on my part, I managed to get photos with a few new guys and a Hall of Famer: Mike Adams, Ender Inciarte and third-base-coach/HOF guy, Ryne Sandburg. That was pretty awesome. Both exhibitions games were well worth the trip because of these little extras.

The game itself, however, did not go well against a very potent Blue Jays line-up. The Jays beat up on Kyle Kendrick, who gave up 5 runs in 3 innings. John Lannan took over for the next 3 innings and held the Jays to 1
more run. It was not quite out of reach for the Phillies though until very late. Here are a few highlights:

And Cliff Lee finally got his turn at the helm of the hot dog cannon, with Hamels “feeding” the device:

The end result was a 10-4 loss. But luckily, the game did not count.

The Phillies announced the Opening Day roster afterwards. There were not too many surprises there:

Rotation (5): Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan.

Bullpen (7): Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, Chad Durbin, Phillippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes.

Catchers (2): Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero.

Infielders (6): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis.

Outfielders (5): Ben Revere, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix and Ender Inciarte.

Inciarte is a Rule-5 guy; they have to keep him on the roster or offer him back to the D-backs. Only 22-years old, he has never played above High-A level. He offers some depth in the outfield for now. Plus, he is adorable, so I approve ;o)

So here we are, finally! Opening Day! Game time is 7:10pm Monday night in Atlanta.

And here are the links to my photo albums from the weekend: Friday’s On-Deck Reception and Exhibition Game and Saturday’s Exhibition Game.

Go Phillies!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

2012 Phillies Photo Tribute

Drum roll please….

Here is my annual Phillies Photo Slideshow!  The slideshow includes all original photos that I took during the 2012 season; it includes players, coaches, fans, the Phanatic, and more.  Enjoy!

Sign of the Apocalypse? Ruiz Suspended for Stimulant Use

Well, at least it was not steroids.  Still, the news that the Phillies’ beloved catcher Carlos Ruiz has been suspended 25 games for violating the league’s drug policy does sort of feel like the end of the world may be upon us.  Is the Phillies 2013 season already going down in flames?  Oh Chooch, say it ain’t so!  I am so depressed…

The stimulant Ruiz took was Adderall, which is an amphetamine used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).  College students use it to improve focus and stamina.  For ADHD, it helps alleviate symptoms and allows patients to behave “normally” (if there is such a thing as normal).

Many major league baseball players are prescribed this type to drug for ADHD and they are granted an exception from MLB.  A good example would be our old pal Shane Victorino, who has struggled with ADHD since childhood.  He even wrote about it in his book that was released last year, “Shane Victorino: The Flyin’ Hawaiian.” 

Another Phillie, Kevin Frandsen, was suspended in 2011 for a different amphetamine, Ritalin, while in the minors.  These pills have become more common over the years among athletes looking for a “mental” boost instead of a physical one, like steroids.  There is much debate over whether or not amphetamines really offer any serious edge, but Ruiz’s numbers this past year do seem suspicious.  He had career highs in many categories including batting average, home runs and slugging percentage.

Know what else is a stimulant? Caffeine.  So can players just drink jugs of coffee before games to get a similar effect?  And how about energy drinks, like 5-Hour Energy or Monster?  While these are not nearly as strong as Adderall, it does raise some interesting questions.  Does feeling more “awake” enhance baseball performance?  And if so, how much?

There have been a number of studies which can be found in scientific journals, but the results are varied and, therefore, inconclusive.  An article at LiveScience.com reviews a journal entry by six scientists from top universities who advocate the use of amphetamines by healthy people.  But the review serves to show an opposing view, noting the dangers of drug dependency and side effects.  So even scientists cannot seem to agree on the subject.

Whatever the individual opinion on the subject, the end result is the same.  There will be no Chooch for the first month of the season.  Worse, players are only given a suspension for use of amphetamines after their second failed test.  This means Ruiz knew he was to be retested, and still did not stop taking the drug.  Chooch, you are killing me, man!  What the *%*^@!!??

This is a crippling blow to the Phillies, who are already in a tenuous situation as this team continues to age.  The window of opportunity for wins with this core group of players is closing fast.  Of course, Erik Kratz will be there to fill in, but with so many questions going into the 2013 season, this is a huge setback.  Will Chase Utley be healthy?  How about Roy Halladay?  Can the team sign a solid outfielder?  And the list goes on…

I need a stiff drink right about now.  Spring training has not even begun, and I already feel the weight of impending doom upon us.  Hey, isn’t the end of the world nearly upon us?  December 21, 2012 is less than a month away and, according to the Mayan calendar, we are all as good as gone.  Is Chooch the first sign of the apocalypse or do the Phillies just have a black cloud over them in 2012?  And could the Angels signing of Ryan Madson, who the Phillies should have gone after this offseason, be apocalypse sign #2?  I officially hate the Mayans for prompting this silly discussion.

Let us all hope that 2013 has better luck in store for all of us.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The 2012 Phillies: A Season to Forget

The torture that was the 2012 Phillies season is finally over.  And sadly, it ended just as I predicted before the season even began; without a playoff bid.  I was hoping to be wrong about that.

Since the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, each year they have taken exactly one step backwards.  So this year, missing the playoffs seemed like their destiny.  They lost the World Series in 2009; lost the NL Championship Series in 2010; lost the NL Division Series in 2011; and now, the next logical step has arrived.  The Phillies will go home early without even a sniff at a post-season run.

Remember happy days like these?:

For now, they are gone :O(

The first casualties of the 2012 disaster are already accounted for.  Bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach Greg Gross and first base coach Sam Perlozzo have all been given their walking papers.  More fallout is probably on the horizon, but it will probably involve players, not coaches.

So who else should stay and who should go?  Here are some thoughts, starting with the offense:

In 195 at-bats, Kevin Frandsen hit .338, which led the team.  And for an entire month, he played with a stress fracture in his leg, yet he still kept hitting.  I say put him at 3rd base and get a back-up in case of injuries.

If the Phillies do not re-sign Juan Pierre, they are insane.  He hit .307 in 394 at-bats, led the team in stolen bases with 37 and he is the best bunter you can find anywhere.

Bring Shane Victorino back!  After a depressing second half with the Dodgers, his price will go down, possibly to the point where the Phillies can afford to resign him.  John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown can platoon and then the Phils need another outfielder or two.

Needs to Go:  Nate Schierholtz, Ty Wigginton, Michael Martinez.  Martinez is good defensively, but hit only .174 in 115 at-bats.  They can find a better utility guy.  And we are stuck with Laynce Nix for one more year unless someone is willing to trade for him…not likely.

Back-up Catcher:  In – Erik Kratz; Out – Brian Schneider.

Relief Pitching:  Jonathan Papelbon stays and probably Antonio Bastardo.  I will also put in votes for Jeremy Horst and Phillipe Aumont.  The maybes are Jake Diekman and Justin DeFratus, although DeFratus needs to be 100% healthy, which I feel is still in question.  Michael Stutes may return, but no one is sure in what condition.

Please Go Away:  Josh Lindblom – trade him (if anyone wants him).  He has been awful.  This team needs some veteran help in the pen.

Please Come Back: Ryan Madson!

As for starters, unless someone’s arm falls off, stick with the usual 5: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay (pray he gets healthy), Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick.

And of course, all the usual suspects, like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, etc… will be back.  But will they be healthy?  That is the looming question.

To give an idea of how badly the injuries hurt the team this year, consider this: I may be missing some, but by looking at the team stats, at least 49 different players made an appearance for the Phillies this year, rotating in and out of the 25-man roster.  Also, only 2 players of those 49 reached 400 or more at-bats; Rollins (632) and Mayberry (441).  That is scary.

So the season is over and the healing (quite literally) shall begin.  Do you have any thoughts you would like to share about this season?  Feel free to leave comments below. 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Annihilate the Mets in Finale of 3-Game Sweep

On Thursday night, the Phillies gave the Mets a spanking and then some.  It was an outright stomping to the tune of 2 touchdowns and a safety.  If you are not a football fan, that is the baseball equivalent of 16 runs.

The 16-1 pummeling began with an 8-run 1st inning.  The Phillies went all the way through the line-up, batters 1-8, before a single out was recorded by the Mets.  The starting pitcher was lifted from the game 7 batters in and his final line read 7 earned runs and zero innings pitched…ouch.  The next pitcher who came in hit Erik Kratz with a pitch to force in another run.

This was the first time the Phillies had their first 8 batters reach base to start a game since 1975.  It was also the first time since 1912 that they scored at least 8 runs in the 1st inning while on the road.  Know what else happened in 1912?  The Titanic sank.

For the Mets, this was a game to forget, if they can.  For the Phillies, it was a nice opportunity to bump up their batting averages and stats.  Here are those than benefitted the most from the Mets’ ineptitude:

That is a lot of hitting.

With 2 outs in the 9th the night before, Ryan Howard hit a 2-run homer to win the game.  And with 2 outs in the 9th last night, Howard smashed a Grand Slam home run, adding insult to injury for the Mets.  The Phillies scored 7 runs in that final inning.

Rookie pitcher Tyler Cloyd quietly had a great game in between all the offensive fireworks.  Cloyd gave up only 1 run on 3 hits over 8 innings.  He was the only starter in the game who did not get a hit for the Phillies, but since he pitched well, he is forgiven ;o)

Despite the sweep of the Mets though, the Phillies are still 4 games out of the Wild Card race as the Cardinals keep winning.  They are running out of games quickly.

Of the 12 remaining games, the next 3 are at home against the Braves.  Game time tonight is 7:05pm.

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Halladay Strong in Phillies Win Over the Reds

This has not been an ideal year for anyone in the Phillies organization, especially Roy Halladay.  After landing on the disabled list earlier in the year, Halladay struggled to regain his usual form.

In a 6-2 win over the Reds, Halladay finally looks like he is healthy again and back on his usual game.  Over 7 1/3 innings, Halladay allowed just 1 earned run and struck out 5 batters.  The offense provided him with some runs to seal the deal.

The two big blasts of the day came from Erik Kratz and Chase Utley.  Kratz smashed a 3-run homer in the 2nd inning and Utley added 2 more runs with another bomb in the 3rd inning.  Kratz now has 9 homers in only 38 games with a slugging percentage of .611.  How this guy was stuck in the minor leagues for so long is a mystery.

Another mystery, at least to certain sports talk show hosts, is John Mayberry Jr.  With another multi-hit game against the Reds, Mayberry continues to hit at a torrid pace.  Critics are always on him, saying he is not an everyday player.  But he is showing us right now, as he did at the end of last season as well, that he is an everyday guy.  Why?  Because when he starts every game, like he does now, he hits.

In contrast, when the Phillies used Mayberry as a platoon guy, like they did at the start of last year and this year, he struggles.  When he plays regularly, he hits.  Mayberry hit .271 in July and .290 in August because, after the Shane Victorino trade, he has become a regular in the line-up.  Now this is just my 2-cents, but I say let the guy play center next year.  He has earned it.

And there is my rant for your Phillies off-day.  Play resumes tomorrow at 7:05pm when the Rockies come to town.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Kratz & Mayberry Propel Phillies to Win

Friday night’s Phillies – Braves game was a little uncomfortable to watch through the first 5 innings as ace pitcher Roy Halladay struggled.  Sweaty and red in the face, Halladay looked like he might pass out more than a few times.  He gave up 4 runs on 2 homers and 4 walks before being pulled after 4 2/3 innings.

Catcher Erik Kratz did everything humanly possible to help the ailing Halladay, including taking what looked like a heavy-weight title knock-out shot at the plate from Chipper Jones in the 4th inning:

John Mayberry Jr. made a great, on-target throw and, amazingly, Kratz held onto the ball.  It was an unbelievable play…but neither Kratz nor Mayberry were done impressing everyone yet.

Down 4-5 going into the 9th inning, the Phillies were going to need a small miracle to get to Braves star closer Craig Kimbrel.  But Kratz was again up to the challenge as he took Kimbrel’s fastball deep to left to tie up the game.

That home run sent the game into extra innings where Mayberry stepped in once more to help the Phillies win.  Kevin Fransden provided the first spark, staring the 10th off with a single.  Later that inning, Mayberry saw one pitch and sent in into the seats for a 3-run homer, handing the Phillies an 8-5 lead.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon nailed down the save, which was the 250th save of his career and 31st this season.  The Phillies now sit 8 games out of the Wild Card race.  Not that the playoffs are a real possibility at this point, but just thought I would mention it.  At the very least, they should aim to make life more difficult for the Braves.  Game time today is 4:05pm.

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