Considering it is the offseason, this has been a busy week for the Phillies. In an unusual roster move, the Phillies have potentially signed left fielder Laynce Nix, 31, to a two-year deal, pending a physical. I say this is unusual because in a 9-year career, Nix is a .244 hitter and from 2006-2008, he spent most of his time in the minors.
Last year with the Nationals, Nix hit .250 with 16 home runs. Similarly, Raul Ibanez hit .245 with 20 homers. And this signing pretty much signals the end of Ibanez’s career with the Phillies. So they are replacing him with a guy who is similar and only a little bit younger in baseball years. The big difference here is that Ibanez had a solid career. Nix has not.
So yes, this move is just one more head scratcher this offseason for the Phillies who seem to be going back to their roots of taking out the trash and hoping it turns into treasure. Sometimes that works out; most of the time, it does not. As for Ibanez, it certainly looks like he has been “Nixed.”
In happier news, Chase Utley and his wife Jen welcomed their first child on December 2. His name is Benjamin Cooper Utley; FYI – Cooper is mom’s maiden name. There was a photo posted on Crossing Broad but the Utley’s had them remove it.
So you can either use your imagination…or, use my imagination ;o)
By the way, the market for short stops just heated up. The Miami Marlins have signed Jose Reyes for 6 years at $106 million. He is not a Met anymore, but the NL East is still not rid of the annoying, showboating Reyes.
And his price tag also means that Jimmy Rollins may expect more money than the Phillies are able to give. As a back-up plan, rumors have been flying about interest in Aramis Ramirez. However, Ramirez plays third base. Where does that leave Placido Polanco and who will play short stop?
So many questions, so few answers… I will tell you this though, the 2012 Phillies are starting to look a whole lot different than the 2011 Phillies, although it is more of a lateral-type movement so far.
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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography
The five teams in the NL East, the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets and Nationals, have all had busy off-seasons trying to improve their clubs. Some have been more successful than others. And some, like the Phillies and Mets, are moving very slowly through the free agent and trade possibilities.
Here is a countdown of the top 10 moves so far within the division and a breakdown of potential future moves for each team.
#10 – Three Relief Pitchers to the Marlins
In mid-November, the Red Sox swapped lefty relievers with the Marlins. Dustin Richardson went to the Marlins and Andrew Miller landed with the Red Sox. Miller, previously a highly-touted prospect, was a disappointment in Florida. He struggled with control and lacked consistency.
The addition of Richardson is a good move for the Marlins. At only 26-years of age, Richardson posted a 4.15 in 26 relief appearances in the bigs, although most of his time has been spent in the minors. This lefty has great potential. The Marlins hope they can mould him into a solid reliever.
The very next day, the Marlins also acquired two right-handers, Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. The Marlins sent Cameron Maybin to the Padres in exchange. Webb has averaged a 3.19 ERA in two major league seasons while Mujica is going into his 6th season having posted a 3.62 ERA last year.
These three pitchers combined should make a major impact on the Marlins 2011 bullpen.
#9 – Dennys Reyes to the Phillies
The Phillies have agreed to terms with veteran left-hander, Dennys Reyes. The 33-year-old reliever posted a 3.55 ERA in 59 relief appearances last season for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Phillies chose not to re-sign JC Romero after Romero struggled with control and left elbow surgery last offseason seemed to alter his mechanics. Reyes will be counted on to take over for Romero.
The only other lefty who has had much success with the Phillies in the few past years is Antonio Bastardo. The Phillies will likely go into the 2011 season with these two left-handed relievers in the bullpen.
#8 – Javier Vazquez to the Marlins
Right-handed starter Javier Vazquez struggled last year with the Yankees, ending the season with a 10-10 record and a 5.32 ERA. However, Vazquez pitched for the Braves in 2009 and ended with a 2.87 ERA. A return to the NL East may be exactly what Vazquez needs to get back on track.
The Marlins also like the idea that Vazquez can eat innings for them, which is something they have been lacking. This 13-year veteran is sure to bring some stability to the Marlins rotation.
#7 – Eric Hinske re-signs with the Braves
The Braves liked Eric Hinske in left field last year, where he made only 1 error in 360 innings. At the plate, Hinske hit .256 with 11 homers and a .793 OPS. In 2011, Hinske is likely to serve as a left-handed pinch-hitter who may fill in for Martin Prado from time to time.
#6 – John Buck to the Marlins
Catcher John Buck will enter his 8th major league season with a 3-contract from the Florida Marlins. Buck had a breakout year in 2010 with the Blue Jays and made the All-Star team for the first time in his career.
Buck set career highs in batting average (.281), on-base percentage (.314), homers (20) and RBIs (66) with the Jays and also threw out 28% of runners attempting to steal. The Marlins may have hit a home run with this signing.
Jose Contreras spent most of his career as a starter until last year with the Phillies where he made a nice transition into a full-time reliever. Contreras was one of the most dependable relievers in the Phillies bullpen and as such, the Phillies rewarded him with a new 2-year deal, including an option for a third year.
Contreras went 6-4 with four saves and a 3.34 ERA in 67 games in 2010. He is able to pitch multiple innings when necessary and can also fill in as a closer. This gives the Phillies some much needed stability in the bullpen.
#4 – Scott Linebrink to the Braves
There was one more pitching swap this offseason as the Braves sent Kyle Cofield to the White Sox in exchange for another righty, Scott Linebrink. At 23 years of age, Cofield was moved in favor of experience. Linebrink is a 12-year veteran who has had a fairly consistent career. He went 3-2 with a 4.40 ERA as a reliever for the White Sox last year and will be a solid piece in the Braves bullpen.
#3 – George Sherrill to the Braves
Continuing to add pitching, the Braves signed lefty reliever George Sherrill, who will be entering his 8th season in the majors. The one-year deal is a smart one for the Braves as it is fairly low-risk. Sherrill performed well in 2008 and 2009, but last year, he ran into trouble. Posting a 6.69 ERA with the Dodgers in 65 games, Sherrill got destroyed facing right-handed hitters who batted .427 off him.
If Sherrill can rebound to his 2009 form, the Braves move will pay major dividends. If not, they only spent $1.2 million dollars to sign him. This looks like a winner for the Braves.
#2 – Dan Uggla to the Braves
His name is Dan Uggla and yes, he is now a Brave. This All-Star second baseman has been tearing up the NL East for five years now. The Marlins refused to meet Uggla’s demand of a five-year contract and decided to trade him. They received Omar Infante and left-handed reliever Michael Dunn in exchange.
The winner of this trade may be a tough call. Uggla, with 33 homers last year, gives the Braves a right-handed power bat. However, Infante is a more versatile and solid defender. Plus, Infante batted over .300 each of the past two seasons. And with good left-handed relievers hard to come by, Dunn’s 1.89 ERA in 25 games last year looks pretty good. However, Dunn is a rookie with little experience so the Marlins cannot be sure what they will get out of him.
The worst news about this trade for the NL East is that Uggla remains in the NL East. The Marlins may have just shot themselves, plus three other teams, directly in the foot.
If anything is certain about this signing, it is that no one saw it coming. The 7-year, $126 million dollar deal handed to right fielder Jayson Werth is the biggest move made in the NL East so far this offseason. It may even wind up being one of the top five deals in all of baseball by the time 2011 gets started.
The Phillies could not afford to meet Werth’s demand, who made his first All-Star appearance with them in 2009. Batting .296 with 27 homers and 85 RBI last year, this five-tool player is a great addition to any team. However, at 31 years of age, Werth’s 7-year deal may look foolish a few seasons down the road.
Potential Future Moves: The Phillies
A name you are likely to hear a lot in the coming weeks is Zack Greinke. In fact, the only NL East team who has not been linked to Greinke is the Mets. The Royals have made it known that they are willing to part with this right-handed starter for the right price. Once Cliff Lee signs somewhere, the market for Greinke will certainly heat up.
While Greinke is on the Phillies wish list, they may also be looking at right fielder Delwyn Young. Having spent the last two years with the Pirates, Young has not exactly been lighting up the batter’s box, hitting only .236 last year. But the Phillies are still deciding how to replace Jayson Werth. Young is a possibility, but look for the Phils to fill the spot internally.
Potential Future Moves: The Braves
Aside from Zack Greinke, the Braves are also rumored to be in talks with lefty reliever Ron Mahay. While with the Braves the last few months of 2007, Mahay posted a 2.25 ERA in 30 appearances and has since expressed interest in returning to the Braves.
Mahay had surgery near the end of the 2010 season for a torn rotator cuff. but with left-handers in short supply, the Braves may take a look at re-signing Mahay.
Despite signing a few lefties already, the Marlins are still looking for depth in this area. Ron Mahay, whom the Braves are looking into, is also a possibility here. A few other lefties the Marlins may consider are Joe Beimel and JC Romero. Beimel posted a 3.40 ERA in 45 innings last year and Romero had a 3.68 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
The Marlins have also been tossing around the idea of signing right fielder Delwyn Young, whom the Phillies expressed interest in as well.
Potential Future Moves: The Mets
The Mets have not made many moves this offseason aside from a few smaller players like catcher Ronnie Paulino and righty DJ Carrasco. The biggest potential move for the Mets may be simply retaining outfielder Carlos Beltran. Already signed through 2011, several teams including the Red Sox, have expressed interest in a trade for Beltran.
With budget concerns, the Mets have little room to squeak out any significant deals. Therefore, the most important move they make may just be retaining players like Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes. The Mets will need to resist the urge to dump payroll if they are to have a chance to compete in 2011.
Potential Future Moves: The Nationals
While the Nationals severely overpaid for right fielder Jayson Werth, they may not be done just yet. It seems, that like a lot of teams, star pitcher Cliff Lee is on their radar. And similar to the Werth deal, no one would ever see it coming. But the Nats appear to have money to burn so Lee may not be out of the question.
Veteran outfielder Randy Winn has also been rumored to be generating interest in Washington. Also add first baseman Adam LaRoche to their wish list and right-handed reliever Kevin Gregg. Gregg spent two years in the NL East with the Marlins from 2007 to 2008. He pitched in 63 games for the Blue Jays last year and posted a 3.51 ERA. Several teams, including the Nationals, have been courting the reliever.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
My day at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies final home game today against the Mets started off a bit dreary. It was rainy and cold. But soon after entering the park, two Phillies players walked right past me; Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. I said, “Hey Dom Brown!” and he said hello back and waved. I then proceeded to follow them through the park. They stopped at the first base gate and began handing out rally towels to fans coming through the turnstiles as part of the Fan Appreciation Day surprises.
Once the crowd died down and Brown looked bored, I asked an usher if I could go up close and take a photo. He said I could so I walked over, said hi and asked Brown to take a photo with me.
I held up the camera and pushed the button; as I did, two security guards started yelling at me to stop and go away. I turned my head to see what they were yelling about and the shot to the right is the result. Well, at least we are both in it…lol I thanked Dom as I ran off before I got yelled at some more.
So while that was fun, the rest of the day was not. Cole Hamels did not pitch well and allowed 5 runs over only 4 innings while looking visibly frustrated at both himself and many of the umpires’ ball-strike calls. As a result, there were a lot of pitchers used in the game, including rookie Vance Worley who pitched a scoreless inning:
Down 5-0 in the 5th, things look grim for the Phillies who were getting beat by a very average pitcher in Pat Misch. They finally scored when Chase Utley smashed a 3-run homer. But that was the only highlight of the game as the Phillies went on to leave 9 men on base and were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
Defensively, they did at least embarrass Jose Reyes one more time. In all 3 games this series, Reyes was picked off base. Today, he was thrown out at home and also caught stealing third base; Shane Victorino got the assist on the out at home. The Phillies defense also turned one double play while Carlos Ruiz hit into a double play to end a scoring threat in the 4th.
This loss was disappointing on many levels. First, the Braves lost which means, had the Phillies won, they could have clinched the NL East at home and the fans, myself included, would have been able to participate in the celebration.
Also, it was Fan Appreciation Day which means after the game, the players traditionally would toss t-shirts and signed Nerf-like balls into the stands. But since they lost, they all went to the clubhouse instead of thanking the fans who stayed to the end. The ball girls were left to handle the duty. As the bullpen members walked in, a few of them, like Brad Lidge and JC Romero, stopped and helped out the ball girls, which was nice. But overall, it was a very disappointing day and a letdown for the fans.
The good news is, the magic number is now just ONE. So the Phillies only need one more win or one more Braves loss to clinch. Right now, the worst they can do it tie with the Braves for the NL East title.
The Phillies go to DC now for 3 games against the Nats; tomorrow’s game time is 7:05pm and Roy Halladay will pitch. Here is the full Photo Album from the game.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Over the last several years, manufacturing runs and playing small ball has not been the Phillies forte. Predominantly a power hitting line-up, they are suffering from a major power outage with both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the DL. But a little small ball tonight helped them crank out some runs to beat the Mets.
In the 3rd inning, Jimmy Rollins singled and then stole both second and third bases with 2 outs in the inning. Shane Victorino doubled to drive Rollins home for their first run of the game. It was Victorino again in the 5th who singled with two outs and stole second. Placido Polanco singled to send Victorino home. Then in the 6th, Jayson Werth led off with a triple and Carlos Ruiz singled him in.
Both Werth and Victorino had a multiple hit night; 2 for Werth and 3 for Victorino. Polanco was hit by a pitch in the hand early in the game but kept playing. Nothing else was said about it so hopefully, he is fine. Although, at the time, it looked painful.
Kyle Kendrick started the game for the Phils and went 6 2/3 innings allowing just one run; it was a home run from Jose Reyes. Kendrick walked only one batter and struck out 4. His last time out, Kendrick allowed 5 runs in only 3 1/3 innings, so this was a great improvement.
With a 3-1 lead, Ryan Madson pitched the 8th without allowing a run. And then Brad Lidge, who has never blown a save against the Mets in his career, came in for the 9th. Lidge kept that streak alive by retiring the Mets in order. The Phillies are now tied for the Wild Card lead and 2 games behind the Braves in the NL East.
In injury news, it appears that Utley may be back with the team as early as Tuesday after having surgery on his thumb for a torn ligament on July 1. He is already playing in rehab games in Clearwater. If Utley does return that soon, we can officially dub him Superman. Either that, or World’s Fastest Healer. Howard may also be back around the same time. That will be a huge boost for the Phillies!
The Phillies have a day off tomorrow before the Giants come to town for a 3-game series starting on Tuesday. If all goes according to plan, I should be at all three games. As usual, I shall return with photos :O)
Pelfrey photo from AP; Werth photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
For the second consecutive night, the first hit of the game for the Phillies came off the bat of the starting pitcher. Unlike last night, that hit by Roy Halladay was not the only hit of the night. Singles by Jimmy Rollins and then Placido Polanco scored Halladay, marking the first run in 38 2/3 innings for the Phillies at Citi Field in NY.
Halladay was on fire tonight. His dominance was very evident in the 4th inning when, after allowing a lead-off triple to Jose Reyes, Halladay buckled down and got the next 3 batters out without allowing Reyes to score. Halladay went 8 innings, allowing only 4 hits, no walks and he struck out 7.
And although the Phillies offense is still not quite clicking in NY, the Mets defense gave them a much needed boost. I was so moved by their play, I just had to write a love letter in their honor:
Dear Mets Defense,
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your efforts tonight. Those three errors and three unearned runs for the Phillies truly exceeded my expectations.
Watching an easy grounder dribble through the legs of All-Star third baseman David Wright was inspiring. I nearly shed a happy tear.
Though you may sometimes feel underappreciated, do not fret. We, the Phillies fans, are very thankful for your hard work and dedication to mediocrity. And if you can repeat the same performance tomorrow night as well, I promise to be your best friend…for at least one day.
Don’t you feel all warm and fuzzy inside now? I know I do.
So last night the Mets shut out the Phillies; tonight, the Phillies returned the favor with a 4-0 win behind the arm of Halladay. The final game of this series with the Mets is tomorrow night at 8:05pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Throughout most of the year, Roy Halladay has not gotten a great deal of run support from his teammates. Today, he had a rough time against the Mets, allowing 2 runs in the first inning alone to put the Phillies in a quick hole. Halladay seemed off but he did pitch 7 innings; on 9 hits and a walk, he allowed 5 runs while striking out 10 batters.
But the offense did not let Halladay down this time. After a Jimmy Rollins 1-out double in the 3rd, the Mets short stop Jose Reyes committed a fielding error that allowed Placido Polanco to reach base. From there, a rally was born. Remember yesterday when mascot J-Roll Smurf put the voodoo hex on Reyes? Coincidence? Well, who cares…it worked, whatever it was.
The Reyes error sent the Phillies on a huge tear; Ross Gload singled, which scored Rollins. And then the super-hot Raul Ibanez extended his hitting streak to a career high 16 games with a 3-run homer. Later, a Brian Schneider single scored Jayson Werth for the 5th run of the inning. Werth had also homered the inning before. Here are a few shots of the home runs and subsequent celebrations:
The effort was all around for the Phillies. Not only did the offense score 6 runs for Halladay, they played solid defense as well. Halladay kept running into trouble, but some good pitches, a double play and a few diving grabs helped him out. Gload especially gave a great effort at first base filling in for the injured Ryan Howard. Here are a few more action shots from the game:
Another huge positive to come out of this 6-5 win was the back-end of the bullpen. Ryan Madson played “Bridge to Lidge” in his former excellent fashion, shutting the Mets down in the 8th. And then Brad Lidge, with his usual tense moments, did finally get the save with only a 1-run lead. Both pitchers have been up and down so it was nice to see the pen work the way it is actually supposed to in a tight game.
There was positive news before the game as well. Both Chase Utley and Shane Victorino were out running around and playing Frisbee on the field. This is meant to be a conditioning exercise, and Utley was quite serious about getting the job done.
Victorino, on the other hand, while still getting the job done, looked more like a kid playing in his back yard than a professional ballplayer. He even raced someone’s kid at one point. Nothing wrong with a little fun ;o) Victorino was running very well and it looks like he may be activated soon. He will start a rehab assignment on Tuesday and may be back by next weekend.
Also before the game, the Alumni Batting Challenge took place with 3 teams; Kevin Stocker with Ricky Bottalico, Jim Eisenreich with Mitch Williams and Darren Daulton with Dickie Noles. Stocker and Bottalico took home the prize. You can see many photos from the even in the full game Photo Album.
The Phillies have a day off tomorrow before the Dodgers come to town. Kyle Kendrick will start Tuesday’s game which is scheduled for 7:05pm.
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
The Phillies reclaimed their spot in first place last night after an 11-5 win over the Mets. Let us begin with the Tale of Two Teams: Before the game, people like Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino had their game faces on. Jimmy Rollins, still on the DL, was relaxed and posing for me and Jose Reyes was busy fixing his hair. A foretelling of things to come perhaps?
As for the game itself, most of it can be summed up in two innings. In the first inning, things did not look good for pitcher Jamie Moyer and the Phillies. Moyer got the first two outs but after allowing a few singles and then a home run to David Wright, he was in a big hole quickly.
Moyer’s performances this year have had one huge flaw; he always seems to have one bad inning where he gives up a bunch of runs. In the top of the 4th, he allowed 2 more runs on a Rod Barajas homer. Barajas has done serious damage to the Phillies every time he has played his ex-team. Although, Placido Polanco did manage to tag Barajas out going to third:
But the bottom of the 4th inning blew the game wide open for the Phillies. The Mets ace, Johan Santana, had been mowing down Phillies batters, except for solo homers from Polanco and Howard in the 1st. After a Chase Utley double, Santana got the next two batters out, but things then spun wildly out of control.
Raul Ibanez singled to score Utley and Carlos Ruiz walked after that. The bases were loaded with 2 outs for the pitcher, Moyer. You had to imagine Moyer would just make the last out and that would be that. But once Moyer ran the count 2-0, the crowd exploded with anticipation of what might happen next.
On their feet and screaming, “Johan! Johan!” the fans rattled Santana and Moyer, will amazing discipline at the plate, drew the walk to force in a run. Everyone began having flashbacks to Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS when Brett Myers and the crowd did the exact same thing to pitcher CC Sabathia. And who should step to the plate but the same hero from that NLDS game, Shane Victorino.
Back in October of 2008, Victorino followed up the Myers walk with a Grand Slam. Last night, history repeated itself as Victorino, with the crowd cheering him on, hit another Grand Slam! It was the 2nd of his career and I have been present for both of those slams. Shane may want to send me some tickets as it appears I am his good luck charm ;o)
But the inning did not end there. Polanco singled and then Utley homered; and with that, Santana was finally run out of the game. The Mets bullpen gave up one more run after that making it a grand total of 9 runs in the inning. Santana was responsible for 8 of those, which is more runs that he gave up in the entire month of April. And the 10 runs total marks the most runs ever allowed by Santana in a single game for his career.
The Phillies batted around plus 4 in the inning and the outburst seemed to give Moyer new life on the mound. He pitched two scoreless innings after that and even got a hit in the 5th inning. Chad Durbin pitched the 7th and 8th innings without allowing a hit and Danys Baez, feeling comfy with a 6-run lead, closed out the game.
Here is the full Photo Album from the game. Tonight, the Phillies will begin a new series against the Cardinals with Joe Blanton finally returning from the DL. Game time is 7:05pm. Best of luck to Blanton in his season debut!
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography