Tagged: injuries

Brown’s Bombs

Hitting five homers in his last four game, Domonic Brown is on fire…and it is about time.  The Phillies have been waiting for Brown to explode and reach his potential for years now.  It looks like he may be right on track now.

Fresh off his first Player of the Week honors, Brown may now be in the running for Player of the Month.  He has been the one bright spot in an otherwise drab Phillies season so far.  Brown’s efforts have helped the Phillies win the last 2 games against the Red Sox, but can the Phillies keep up the pace?

The team lost another player yesterday due to a family issue; Michael Young was placed on the bereavement/family emergency list and will be gone 3-7 days.  There was no clarification beyond that.  And Chase Utley is progressing slower than everyone had hoped after an oblique injury.  With many other Phils on the DL as well, it will not be easy for this team to keep their heads above water.

Brown’s recent performance has been a big boost.  Erik Kratz looks like he is finding his groove as well.  But clutch hitting on this team is still not happening much.  With 1 out and the bases loaded last night in the 7th, Ryan Howard struck out and John Mayberry Jr. then popped out.  With 1 out and 2 runners on in the 6th, Freddy Galvis ended the inning by hitting into a double play.  These examples are the exact opposite of clutch hitting and sadly, it happens more often than not.

Last night’s win was the result of good pitching and 4 solo home runs.  I stress the “solo” part because no one seems to want to hit with runners on base.  For example, the Phillies had 4 stolen bases in the game, but none of those runners scored.  The team left 8 men on base and went 0-6 with runners in scoring position.

Still, it was a win so we’ll take it.  But Brown’s bombs are not going to carry a team; he is going to need a tad more help.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

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The Big Questions About the Big Piece

The Phillies have lost 3 of their last 4 games and there are still more questions about this team than there are answers.  Perhaps the biggest question right now is about the Big Piece, Ryan Howard.

Take a look at the timeline for Howard this past week and a half:

Howard had a cortisone injection on May 19th; he was back in the line-up May 21st and feeling better.  By May 23rd, he needed a break again.  He started the next 2 games and went 1-8.  On May 26th, he sat out, but pinch hit into a double play later in the game.  And last night against the Red Sox, Howard was visibly uncomfortable; he went 2-5 with a double play and a huge base running blunder where he got picked off at 2nd base.  He appeared to be having great difficulty running.

All of this is very bad news.  The MRI Howard had showed inflammation and changes in the meniscus, which basically means he has cartilage tears.  If the cortisone injection lasted only a few days before he felt discomfort again, the options for treatment during the season will be limited.  And he will be doing further damage to the cartilage as the season progresses and he continues to pound that knee.

And the plot thickens: According to manager Charlie Manual, “He has some arthritis. It comes and goes in his legs. He’s going to always be bothered by that.”  Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease which has no cure.  It can be caused by wear and tear as one gets older, or it can result from an injury.  In Howard’s case, it could be due to the extra stress on his knee after his Achilles surgery.

Whatever the cause, it is beginning to look like Howard’s 5-year, $125 million contract is going to be one of the biggest bust’s in baseball history.  With all the recent injuries, plus the arthritis, Howard will likely never be the same player again…at least, not the one they paid $125 million for.

And with the way this team is currently constructed, having neither Howard nor Chase Utley (currently on the DL with an oblique strain) healthy spells disaster.  There is no way, with the age and the injuries on this team, that the Phillies can contend.

Remember all of the criticism Spring Training that that this team was too old and too injury-prone to win?  Remember Howard’s response to that criticism?  He told the media, “Just don’t be surprised,” basically saying that they were going to prove all the critics wrong.

Well, it is May 28th; the Phillies are in third place and have lost 3 of their last 4 games in spectacularly bad fashion.  The following key players are all on the DL: Utley, Roy Halladay (will miss at least most of the year), Carlos Ruiz and John Lannan.  There are 2 rookies pitching in the rotation.  The bullpen is horrible.  The offense is non-existent.  The fielding errors and base running blunders are piling up.

As much as I hate to be a pessimist, stick a fork in them; I believe this team may be done.

Although, Howard is certainly welcome to prove me wrong…

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Playoff Hopes: Fool’s Gold or the Real Deal?

Out of the 9 Phillies Opening Day 2012 starters, 6 have landed either on the disabled list or with another team at some point during the year.  And that does not even include Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, who started the year on the DL.  So basically, 8 out of 9 regular starters missed a lot of time this year.  The only one who avoided either a trade or the DL was Jimmy Rollins.

It is fitting then that a 2-run shot from J-Roll last night led the team to a 3-game sweep of the Miami MarlinsCliff Lee did his part as well, allowing just 1 run, which was unearned due to an error, over 7 innings.

The win has placed the Phillies only 3 games back in the Wild Card race, which is something not many people saw coming.  This team was beaten up so badly throughout most of the year and played so poorly that a possible playoff run, until now, seemed impossible.  Here is a look at the Wild Card standings:

But even after a 7-game win streak, is all this new playoff hope just fool’s gold or can the Phillies really sneak in the backdoor?  Consider this:  6 of those 7 games in the streak came against two of the worst teams in baseball, the Marlins and the Rockies.  Just a few weeks ago, the Phillies lost a series to the Mets, who are also pretty bad.

Then again, the momentum of a 7-game win streak could be enough to help elevate the Phillies performance and confidence to the point where they can start stomping on good teams as well.  But we are not going to know if that is possible for a while as the Houston Astros are next on the agenda.  With a record of 45-98, the Astros are by far the worst team in all of baseball.  Losing even 1 of the 4 games against the Astros would be a tragedy.

So maybe this series could be a descent barometer after all.  Because if the Phillies struggle against the Astros, I think the faint light of playoff hopes would be markedly dimmed.  But if they beat the crap out of the Astros, as they very well should, then go ahead and keep the light of hope burning.  Then we can all say, “Watch out National League!  Here come the Phillies…”

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Phillies Beat Nats in Opener; Schwimer in Trouble Again

The Phillies beat the 1st place Nationals Friday night by a score of 4-2.  It was a very satisfying win considering that these teams have essentially switched places this year, with the Phillies going from 1st to worst for most of the season.

It was probably also very satisfying for Kyle Kendrick who pitched very well for his 3rd start in a row.  Kendrick has received a lot of well deserved criticism for his mostly inconsistent play.  But he does seem to have finally turned things around and fixed whatever issues he was having.  Sadly though, his 21-inning scoreless streak was snapped last night when he gave up a 2-run bomb in the 7th.

Kendrick still pitched a very good game, allowing only 4 hits and 2 walks in 6 2/3 innings.  And the offense helped him out with a couple runs sprinkled here and there.  They did, however, leave a number  men on base again, which seems to be a recurring theme.

But the 4 runs and seven pitchers (yes, 7) were enough to get the win.  Manager Charlie Manuel played bullpen roulette in the 8th inning, going through one pitcher after another to get to Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th.

Luckily, the moves paid off and the Phillies grabbed Game 1 from the Nats.

Before the game, there were whispers of some drama going on behind the scenes regarding relief pitcher Michael Schwimer, who was demoted to Triple-A on Thursday.  Schwimer pitched on Sunday, but now claims to be injured with a sore bicep.  Upset about the demotion, Schwimer is apparently saying he should be on the DL, not in Triple-A.  However, the reasoning behind this complaint may be because, if he is put on the DL, he keeps his major league paycheck and time clock in the bigs running.

So is he really hurt or is he just pissed and wants his money?  The Phillies seem to think he is just fine.  All pitchers have soreness throughout the year; that does not necessarily constitute an injury.  But Schwimer intends to fight the demotion; he did not report to Triple-A and is instead seeking another medical opinion.

Remember back in May when Schwimer got into trouble with the Phillies for this Tweet:

He announced moves that had not been released to the public yet, prompting a strict talking to from GM Ruben Amaro Jr.  On top of that, his performances on the field  since then have ranged from good to awful.  The lack of consistent play, and perhaps his attitude, may be the most likely culprits behind the demotion.

If that is the case, Schwimer is making a huge mess of what was previously a good opportunity for him.  If he is in fact hurt, fine, he has every right to complain.  But if not, with this being the 2nd time he has pissed off Phillies management, Schwimer may be in very hot water…scalding, actually.  I hope for his sake that this ends well.

On to tonight’s game!  Game time is 7:05pm and I will return sometime on Sunday with photos…see you there!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

No Doubt, Chase Utley Has Returned!

Chase Utley is back!  Even better, he is healthy and looks like the All-Star player we have known him to be.  Utley announced his return in his first at-bat of the year with a huge bang.  His fairy tale comeback began with a monster home run to center on a 2-2 count amidst 45,000 fans cheering wildly.

The ballpark exploded with joy from the upper levels down to the dugout where teammates showered Utley with man-hugs, high fives and ear-to-ear grins.  It appears the Chutley magic has returned!

As if that moment were not amazing enough, Carlos Ruiz made it even more special with another home run right after Utley’s and while the crowd was still celebrating the first one.  This had to be sign of better things to come for the Phillies.  For one inning, it felt as if the world was right again.

In honor of Utley’s amazing comeback, here is a montage of some of my favorite photos I have taken of him over the years:

Three cheers for Chase!  And 3 hits as well; Utley went 3-for-5 in his first game of the season.

But the elation of the moment was soon squashed by the Phillies dreadful bullpen, which ruined the day.  Short a starter because of the rain-out last weekend, the Phils were stuck with a bullpen game.  Raul Valdes started and, in the 1st inning, things looked promising.  But by the 2nd, things began to unravel quickly.

Valdes allowed a 3 run homer with 2 outs and the pitcher on deck.  Joe Savery took over in the 3rd and managed one clean inning before things got much worse.  He ended up with 5 runs allowed, two of which scored after Michael Schwimer took over with 2 outs in the 5th.  Savery was sent back to the minors after the game.

But the drama did not end there.  The Phillies actually mounted a comeback and cut the 8-2 deficit to 8-7 by the 7th inning.  It looked like they might actually still have a shot to win, which along with Utley’s return, would have been a massive boost for this team.

But the bullpen even managed to ruin that possibility.  That’s right…Chad Qualls strikes again.  Only he hardly threw any strikes.  Once he walked the first batter, it was clear that a large load of crap was about to hit the fan…again.  Sure enough, Qualls gave up 3 runs, including a 2-run homer.  That handed the Pirates an 11-7 win.

So we are left with three cheers for Chase and about three-hundred boo’s for the bullpen.  If this pen sucked any worse, it would be a little league pen.  Folks, this is BAD.  If the Phillies do not find some better arms soon, it won’t matter how many 3-for-5 games Utley has.  And I am pretty sure that Brian Sanches, called up in place of Savery, is not the answer.

Ryan Howard is starting a rehab assignment today, which should have him back with the team at least after the All-Star break.  But again, the Phillies still need a more solidified bullpen if he is going to be able to make an impact.

The final game of this series begins early, at 1:05pm.  Kyle Kendrick, who has been basically dreadful of late, is starting.  Cross all your fingers and toes that he snaps out of whatever funk he is in so the Phillies can win this 4-game series!

UPDATE: Chad Qualls is outta here!  The Phillies cut him today (“designated for assignment”) after many disasterous pitching efforts.  Excuse me for a moment while I do the happy dance…  Ok, I am back.  Filling his spot will be lefty Jeremy Horst, a rookie aquired in the Wilson Valdez trade.  I do not know much about him except he posted a 2.11 ERA in 26 games in Triple-A and he has to be better than Qualls.  We shall see…

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Steroid Drama Overshadows Philles Victory

There were many positives for the Phillies in last night’s 7-2 win over the RockiesCole Hamels returned to form and pitched extremely well.  John Mayberry Jr. continued his hot streak with 2 extra base hits, including a homer.  And Carlos Ruiz had 3 RBI and 2 hits, also including a homer.  Even better, the Phillies finally got through a game without committing an error.

But all those positives were overshadowed by some overwhelming negatives.  First, the lost of injuries for the Phillies keeps getting scarier.  Laynce Nix had a setback in his recovery, possibly reinjuring the same leg.  David Herndon underwent Tommy John surgery and is out for the year.

However, the biggest bomb dropped when it was announced before the game that rookie infielder Freddy Galvis would be suspended 50-games for violating the MLB drug policy.  He apparently tested positive for a trace amount of clostebol, an anabolic steroid.

Between this year and last, the Phillies have gone from first to worst.  They have seen their All-Star players and important role players decimated by injuries.  This is simply not what this team needed to hear right now.

To say this is disappointing is an extreme understatement.  Galvis was the one bright light in an otherwise dreary season for this team and now, that has been taken away as well.  I suppose the good news is that he can serve the suspension now, while he is in a back brace on the DL.  He probably would have missed at least 50 games anyway.

I do not pretend to know whether Galvis is innocent or guilty.  Although, you would think if he was juicing he would have hit a lot better than .226 with 15 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs and 24 RBIs.  We will probably never know for sure.

There are several reports in reputable medical journals that say this steroid can show up in urine in trace amounts after ingesting contaminated meat or after having “relations” with a woman who was using a particular cream for a “female condition” that contains clostebol.  In other countries, cattle are injected with this drug to “beef” them up, literally.

Even chicken are sometimes injected with steroids.  Studies in that area produced similar results, showing trace levels of the drug in those who consumed the meat.

So I suppose you have to be a vegetarian, Catholic priest with some mad baseball skills in order to avoid a false-positive test result?

And this is why I say we will never know for sure.  There are too many variables as we have seen in previous cases where athletes tested positive after taking a tainted substance.  Former Phillie J.C. Romero is a good example.  He won a law suit against the company who made supplements that were laced with a banned substance which was not on the label.  But even though MLB now acknowledges this issue, Romero still had to serve the suspension and will forever be judged unfairly in public opinion.

This by no means exonerates Galvis, but it does, once again, call into question the legitimacy of MLB’s drug policy.  A more recent example is Ryan Braun of the Brewers, who got off on a technicality involving the “transport” of his sample.

Now that MLB has made announcement about Galvis, we know that either there was no appeal or he already lost the appeal.  It is MLB policy to wait until that process is done before making the official announcement.

Regardless of what did or did not actually occur here, Galvis’ reputation is now mud.  And that is a real shame for a kid with so much potential.  And it is especially a shame for a fan base that has been desperately searching for a small glimmer of hope for this stumbling, last place team.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Chase Utley & Our Great Expectations

It is official; Chase Utley will begin his rehab assignment with Class-A Clearwater today.  This gives him 20 days to return to the big league club, putting his return around or before July 2, 2012.

Are you totally psyched?  No?  Yeah, I am not terribly optimistic either.  It would just be wrong to expect the Utley of 2008 with 33 homers and a .380 on-base percentage to return.  He has battled chronic knee issues for 2+ seasons now.  And as of today, he has yet to play the field in a real game.

But in the back of your mind, aren’t you secretly praying, “Save us, Chase!  You are the only one who can!”?  However, great expectations are usually followed by great disappointment.  We cannot expect one man to save the Phillies season.  It is tempting though to think it could be possible, even if it is not likely.

So say Utley returns and looks like Mr. World-F*-Champions-era Utley.  The expectations will grow even stronger.  The problem with that is, some time down the road, those knees are going to start to ache again.  As his production decreases, the animosity will build among a fan base that is now used to winning.  And that is a recipe for producing some seriously upset fans.

My suggestion then is this: Lower your expectations.  Do not look for Utley to be Superman again.  Then if he does impress consistently, we can all be pleasantly surprised.

And now that I have just said that, my overactive brain is still concocting miracle scenarios for Utley to save this season.  I have tried telling my inner dialogue to shut up, but it is just not listening…

I mean, it is Chase Utley!  I have hundreds of Utley collectables, autographs and photos.  There is a shrine in my house dedicated to the man.  Heck, I even named my cat after him!  For God’s sake Mr. Utley, don’t let us all down!!

So much for tempering my expectations…

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography