Tagged: Jim Thome

Cain vs. Unable: A Total Waste of Lee’s Performance

The Phillies awful offense was unable to scratch out a single run for their pitcher who battled through 10 innings of work against the GiantsCliff Lee became the first pitcher to go 10 shutout innings in a losing game since Brett Saberhagen of the Mets lost to San Diego in 1994.  I am pretty sure this is not a record he was interested in setting.

But against Giant’s pitcher Matt Cain, the Phillies offense seemed uninterested in hitting.  They managed just 4 hits.  They had a shot to score in the 10th after Carlos Ruiz doubled and was sent to third with a sacrifice bunt by Freddy Galvis.   But Jim Thome struck out and John Mayberry Jr. grounded out.

Lee was finally pulled after 10 innings and Antonio Bastardo took over in the 11th.  After Bastardo coaxed what should have been a double play ball out of Brandon Belt, Ty Wiggington at 3rd fumbled and everyone was safe.  Then Melky Cabrera did what the Phillies could not all series long; take advantage of a mistake.  His single scored the only run in the game for a Giants win.

You cannot blame Wiggington for the loss, although he did not help.  But why was Placido Polanco not put in for defense this late in a game where the starting pitcher put in such an amazing effort?  And where were the bats?  Lee deserved a better effort than this.

The Phillies have now lost 2 straight series and continue to dig themselves a huge hole early in the season.  As for the National League East, the Phils are dead last.  Looks like it is going to be a long season…

 

 

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Friday the 13th Phillies Nightmare

When one of your ace pitchers gives up 3 runs in the first inning, you know it is going to be a bad day.  Add to that having the Mets in town, the 3rd anniversary of Harry Kalas’ death and the fact that it is Friday the 13th and things look pretty grimm.

Not that Cliff Lee pitched too badly.  He made a few mistakes and the Mets lowered the ax.  Making matters worse, the Phillies knuckleballing nemesis R.A. Dickey was pitching for the Mets.  Although, the Phillies did collect 11 hits; they just failed to score.

The one happy moment in the game came when rookie Freddy Galvis smashed his first major league home run.  Grinning in the dugout afterwards as the team gave him the silent treatment, Freddy did not have to wait too long for some congratulations.  Jim Thome strained to keep a straight face and was eventually the first to give Galvis a bear hug.

But after that, the nightmare continued for the Phillies.  On his 29th birthday, Hunter Pence received the gift of going 0-for-4.  And although Jimmy Rollins had 3 hits, he made a huge defensive blunder in the 9th inning, bobbling an easy double-play ball.  Rollins did not recover and both runners were safe.  That mistake led to another run for the Mets.

The Mets had their share of goofs as well.  Daniel Murphy collected a fielding error and catcher Josh Thole did something I have never seen before.  In the 2nd inning after hitting a single, Thole ran to 2nd on a Dickey sacrifice bunt.  Then unexpectedly, Thole, who was safe at 2nd, began trotting back to 1st base as if the bunt never happened!

Before Thole realized his stupidity, the Phillies tagged him out on his way back to 1st.  This will be a classic for the MLB blooper reel.  Maybe Thole was trying to make the record books with an unprecedented “reverse steal?”  Whatever the reason, he does win the award for dumbest baseball play ever.

But even that bit of entertainment cannot soften the blow of a sad 5-2 loss to the lowly Mets.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day.  Better than that, tomorrow is NOT Friday the 13th.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Phillies Offense: Here We Go Again…??

The Phillies anorexic offense has gotten off to a seriously slim start during the first two games of 2012.  After a 1-0 win in the opener against the Pirates, the Phillies again scored only one run in Game #2 through 10 innings.

The only run starter Cliff Lee allowed was on a rare wild pitch in the 6th inning.  Lee looked a little uncomfortable most of the game, however, he managed to hold his ground.

But while Lee clawed his way through the Pirates line-up, the Phillies offense was mostly absent.  Hunter Pence collected the lone RBI with a single in the first inning to score Shane Victorino.

Throughout the game though, you could not help but expect to see that “magic” moment occur to get the Phils over the hump.  Freddy Galvis is still waiting for his first major league hit; wouldn’t it be great if that happened at a key moment to put the Phillies ahead?  And Jim Thome stepped in as a pinch hitter late in the game; you thought, surely our old friend can conjure something special in his 1st official at-bat as a Phillie again.

But sadly, the magic never appeared.  And so on to extra innings they went…

Joe Blanton, who started Monday’s exhibition game, was called on in the 10th and immediately got into trouble.  He gave up a double to Phillie-killer Rod Barajas that missed going over the outfield wall by about an inch.  And just a few batters later, a single knocked in the winning run.

While it is only two games into the season, these two games are still cause for concern.  Not panic…just worrisome.  Because this is essentially a carry-over from last year where the Phillies offense regularly stunk up the ballpark.

In addition, having 3 ace pitchers will do them no good if they need those 3 guys to toss a shut-out every time.  That whole pitching staff has to thinking already, “Oh no, here we go again…”  And many fans are thinking the exact same thing right now.

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Back in Philly; Back in Action

The Phillies returned home to play the 1st of 2 exhibition games on Monday night in preparation for Opening Day on Thursday.  I had a very nice seat 22 rows behind home plate, but sadly, my camera died a few weeks ago.  So I apologize in advance for the crappy photos I took with an old camera while the good one is getting repaired.

Joe Blanton started the game and actually looked pretty good.  His fastball had some zip which made his change-up effective.  He actually had a no-hitter going through 3 1/3 innings.  That may not seem like much, but considering he missed most of last season with a bum elbow, this is serious improvement.  The Red Phanatic agreed:

During the game, we saw some old faces, like Placido Polanco who appears healthy, Hunter Pence and Jimmy Rollins:

And there were many new faces, like Juan Pierre and Ty Wiggington.  Pierre looked good at the top of the line-up with a double and a stolen base.

But the big moment of the evening was Jim Thome’s first at-bat in his return to Citizen’s Bank Park.  He received a hearty ovation although he played it cool.

Before the game, I wandered the stadium looking for the “mystery” player sightings that were promised.  I found Juan Pierre playing a running game with some kids, John Mayberry Jr. signing autographs at the kids play area and David Herndon serving soda.

None of the players I ran into would sign autographs according to their body guards/escorts.  When I got home, I saw other guys on TV who did sign, like Cole Hamels and Charlie Manuel.  Hey Phillies…what’s up with that?  Even more annoying, Pierre was standing alone waiting to get in that running game when NO ONE except me recognized him…being the ONLY person to ask for an autograph, you’d think they would have let him do it for ONE person.  Same with Herndon…only one there…no autographs.

So thank God for Ricky Botallico!  The former Phillies closer not only signed autographs (for a LOT of people) but he asked me to take a photo with him!  That’s right…I did not ask.  He did.  I cannot remember the last time I saw any current or former player volunteer for a photo.  He made my day…Ricky, you are the best!

Here is the rest of my Photo Album from the game.  I hope to have a real camera again soon!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Questions That Loom Over the Phillies 2012 Season

A new year is upon us and a new Phillies season is almost here, with Spring Training to begin in just over a month.  A few off-season signings have solidified some areas, where other areas may still be of concern.  Here is my list of Phillies looming questions by position:

The Starting Rotation – The projected starters and order are Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Vance Worley.  Halladay and Lee are no brainers.  Hamels is recovering from elbow surgery but reports are that he is throwing and feeling fine.

This means the two questions remaining are Blanton and Worley.  Blanton sat out most of 2011 with a bum elbow and chose not to have surgery this offseason.  How he will respond in 2012 is a mystery.  However, Kyle Kendrick will be waiting in the wings to fill in should Big Joe go down.

And the question for Worley is simply, will he suffer the sophomore slump or pick up where he left off in 2011.  Either way, the Vanimal will be fascinating to watch.

Catcher –  Carlos Ruiz returns as Batman with Brian Schneider backing him up as Robin.  Choooooch!  No questions here.

1st Base – The sight of Ryan Howard tumbling to the ground in agony to end the Phillies 2011 season still burns in our collective memories.  Beat-writer Todd Zolecki reports that Howard is recovering well from Achilles surgery and is now beginning a light exercise program.

Still, Howard will miss some time.  Experts predict that John Mayberry Jr. will pick up most of the time at 1st with an occasional appearance from Jim Thome.  This seems like a terrible shame for Mayberry who should simply be handed left field and allowed to get comfortable there for the long haul.  Instead, the Phillies will probably platoon Laynce Nix in left with someone like Scott Podsednik.

My suggestion?  Give Nix a shot at 1st base and leave Mayberry in left.  Nix has played 1st before and with some work in Spring Training, he could work his way into the role easily.  Of course, I have no real say in the matter.

2nd Base – Can Chase Utley start and end a whole season at 2nd with his health intact?  We shall see…

Shortstop – Jimmy Rollins returns with a fresh 3-year deal.  The question here is that same as that of the other Phillies aging players…can he stay healthy?

3rd Base – I hate to beat a dead horse, but can Placido Polanco stay healthy at  36 years of age, coming off sports hernia surgery?  We hope so.  Polly’s contract is up after 2012, so who will be our 3rd baseman in 2013?

My suggestion?  Glad you asked.  Have minor league prospect Freddy Galvis spend the year working on a move from SS to 3rd.  Galvis is almost major league ready but out of options with J-Roll resigned at SS for 3 years.  Either Galvis becomes trade bait or he finds another way to be useful to the Phils.

Outfield –  As I mentioned before, Mayberry should be the left fielder but it may wind up being Nix until Howard gets healthy.  At least center and right are set: Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence will both be back and ready to play.

The Bullpen – Once again, the Phillies pen is a huge question mark.  The Phils saw rookies and younger, less experienced players, like Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo, rise and fall throughout 2011.  The status of veteran Jose Contreras is mostly unknown since having elbow surgery.  Other veterans, like Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson are gone (for now).  However, neither Lidge or Madson have found homes.  Could they return?  It’s a long shot….but not impossible.

Spring Training is going to be huge in determining the make-up of this bullpen.  There will be a lot of opportunities for younger guys to step up and steal a spot.  It will also be interesting to see if Dontrelle Willis can conjure up some of his early career magic or if he will slide back into oblivion.

And of course, the closer question was answered with the signing of Jonathan Papelbon.  The only question here is will Papelbon play up to his huge salary?

The Bench – Both Thome and Wilson Valdez are set.  The rest of the bench could consist of any number of new signings or guys like Michael Martinez and Pete Orr.  Again, Spring Training should be very interesting.

FYI – Totally off topic, if anyone has noticed some of my photos and albums mysteriously gone missing, this is due to an unexpected issue with the site I was using to store them.  I am in the process of getting it all loaded to a new site and will be working on updating older blogs as I am able to.  For now, all 2011 albums are back up and can be found under my 2007 – 2011 Photo Archives.  Thank you for your patience while I get everything back up and running :O)

I would like to thank all of my loyal readers for stopping by and helping to make Phillies Phollowers the #1 Phillies Fan MLBlog for the 4th straight year.  Among all team MLBlogs, I ranked #10 in 2011.

Many thanks to everyone in the MLBlogs community and congrats to all the leaders!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Sign Wigginton & Victorino Gets His Own Day

Flyin HawaiianMahalo and Happy Shane Victorino Day!  Yes, Governor Neil Abercrombie declared that today is Shane Victorino Day in Hawaii.  And no, you cannot make this stuff up, folks.

Shane tweeted about the event earlier today:  “Just founded out that Hawaii Governor Abercrombie declaring today as Shane Victorino Day in Hawaii! Whoa…honored! #TeamMana”  But what I really want to know is, where was Mr. Fitch today and did he knit a ridiculously expensive sweater for the occassion?

Seriously, congrats to Shane!  The Flyin’ Hawaiian has earned the honor!

Taking a back seat to the Victorino news today was the signing of utility man Ty Wigginton, 34.  The Phillies will pay half of his $4 million salary next year and they expect he will fill in mostly at 3rd and 1st since both Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco had surgery this off-season.

Wigginton has been tossed around MLB like a ping-pong ball.  The Phillies will be his 7th team entering his 11th major league season.  He is a lifetime .265 hitter and batted .242 last season.

The big draw here appears to be his power, but the right-handed Wigginton will probably see limited at-bats so I question that reasoning.  I also question why the Phillies picked up another aging player on the tail end of his career whose batting average has dropped steadily each year since 2008.

With all the talk about this team needing to get younger, I am confused.  We signed a 34-year old who will likely replace 29-year old Michael Martinez on the major league roster.  And this is after signing and severely overpaying for a 31-year old Jonathan Papelbon (to a FIVE year deal) and 41-year old Jim Thome.  Is it just me, or are the Phillies sort of going backwards here?  I understood the addition of Thome, which is good on a number of levels.  But this one?  Not so sure…

Not to mention Wigginton has a nice list of injuries to his credit, including groin strains, oblique strains, a fractured thumb, a broken hand and a sore back.

While Wigginton did not cost much and has value as a versatile player, the Phils already have plenty of versatile, average hitting  bench guys (Wilson Valdez, Martinez, Ben Francisco).  This seems a bit redundant to me.

Anyone else care to share their opinion?  Feel free to comment below.  And please, have a super Happy Shane Victorino Day :O)

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

Jim Thome Returns to Philadelphia

The Phillies have decided to begin the 2012 season roster update with a blast from the past.  Jim Thome, who played for the Phillies from 2003-2005, has signed a one-year deal to return to the Phils in 2012.  Stating publically on a number of occasions that Charlie Manuel is like a father to him, it is no surprise that Thome wanted to come back for what may be his final year in baseball.

A future hall of famer with 604 career home runs, Thome was already a fan favorite in Philly.  But at age 41, can he contribute to an already aging line-up?  After spending the last 5 years in the American League, Thome saw little playing time in the field and was mostly a designated hitter.

It is possible the Phillies think he can fill in at first base occasionally as Ryan Howard may not be ready for the start of the season.  But it is more likely he will be a bench player, cheerleader and veteran mentor for younger players.

Although in an odd twist of fate, it would be ironic to see Thome take over first base for Howard (if only temporarily) as Howard is the reason Thome was traded away from the Phillies after the 2005 season.  Howard was an emerging rookie at the time and the Phillies had no use for Thome once Howard was ready to go full time.

Here is a quick trip down memory lane with a few photos I shot of Thome in the 2004 season:

Jim Thome

Thome is an all around great guy and it will be wonderful to see him back in a Phillies uniform.  Perhaps the Phils can begin grooming him for a coaching position?  Just a thought.

An even better thought is that Thome could finally get that World Series ring he is lacking.  But as the 2011 season showed us, anything can happen.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*