After the Phillies day off on Thursday, it seems the Phillies offense is taking the rest of the week off. John Mayberry Jr. had the only hit for the Phils in a 2-0 loss to the Orioles on Friday. Then in a 3-0 loss today against the Tigers, they scratched out just 4 hits. But is any more appropriate time for a slump than Spring Training? Besides, we are all anxious for the real games to begin!
The pitching slumped a bit as well; Roy Halladay had a rough day against the Tigers. To start the second inning, he hit the first batter, walked the second batter and gave up a 2-run double to the third batter. A few more hits and another walk later and he had a 3-run inning. Then again, a bad day for Halladay is a spectacular day for most pitchers.
Kyle Kendrick started Friday’s game and gave up 2 runs over 5 innings bringing his spring ERA to 1.29. While Kendrick has clearly out pitched Jamie Moyer so far this year, it is still up in the air as to who will win the 5th starter’s roll. Moyer has way more experience and a much bigger paycheck, which may influence the decision.
But Kendrick should not have too much to worry about as it appears he will make the team either way. Lefty Sergio Escalona was sent back to the minors, indicating that Antonio Bastardo will get the one lefty spot in the pen. The remaining bullpen pieces are right-handers Danys Baez, Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin, David Herndon and Ryan Madson. That leaves the 7th spot for either Kendrick or Moyer. Mike Zagurski, another lefty, may also be in the mix but he has made only 1 appearance all Spring. The Phillies appear to be nursing Zagurski along after he missed all of 2008 due to Tommy John surgery.
Still recovering from off-season surgery, it looks like both Brad Lidge and JC Romero will start the season on the DL. However, they should not be too far behind schedule; both are throwing now to live batters and Lidge pitched in a minor league game on Thursday. Lidge says his command is off and he still needs to work on arm speed. But both players feel physically fine, which is great news.
Third baseman Placido Polanco is also feeling much better after a right calf sprain and was scheduled to play in a minor league game today. Chase Utley has recovered from his respiratory issues and played in both games after the off-day. If everyone else can stay healthy now, we should be looking at a nice start to the season.
And just for fun, I came across this Jayson Werth baseball card and thought I would share it with you. This is one of the shots taken during Photo Day in Spring Training from last year. Each player gets their “standard” shots for cards, programs, yearbooks and other team items on this day. The way it works is the photographer has them hold up their name / locker plate for the first photo so they know who they are shooting. They put the name plate down and then continue with the regular photos.
However, Werth decided to be silly and rather than put his name plate away, he stuck it through his belt loops. So my question is, did the photographer not notice this or did he just think it was funny and keep right on shooting? Either way, it is pretty interesting. Maybe that is why Werth let his hair and beard grow wild this spring? Could he have been trying to top last year’s bizarre photo session? We may never know…
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Photo by Jenn
The Phillies have had a very productive month so far this spring and will go into their day off tomorrow with a record of 9 wins, 4 loses and a tie. Spring Training results are not a great indicator of how a team will perform in the regular season, but based on years past, it seems like every player came to camp more prepared and more determined this year and it shows. The bats are jumping and most guys have stayed fairly healthy.
Placido Polanco’s right knee strain is minor and he will be back in action probably by Friday. Chase Utley has also sat out a few games with a respiratory illness but again, he seems to be on the road to recovery. Even pitchers like JC Romero and Brad Lidge who had off-season surgeries are getting closer and closer to game-shape. Romero threw to live batters this morning and is feeling good; both he and Lidge should be ready to go by early April.
Luck Of The Irish?
Cole Hamels was feeling lucky this week; he threw 5 innings in a win over the Tigers on Tuesday without allowing an earned run; he gave up just 2 hits and struck out 4. Joe Blanton was not quite as solid against the Yankees today in the St. Patty’s Day showdown, but still not bad. Blanton did allow 2 runs on 7 hits over 5 innings, but maybe he is just allergic to the shamrock green uniforms?
The two young lefty bullpen hopefuls also pitched in the last two games and showed some progress. Antonio Bastardo showed off some serious heat, striking out 2 batters and not allowing a base runner in his inning against the Tigers. Sergio Escalona also pitched a scoreless inning against the Yanks, although he is still struggling with his control and walked two batters. Regardless, it does appear that both players are anxious to crack the Opening Day roster.
As for the bats, Ryan Howard hit his first home run of Spring yesterday and is batting a very solid .344 so far. Not to be outdone, Jayson Werth smashed a 3-run homer today that looked like a rocket as it travelled in nearly a straight line over the left field fence faster than you could blink. It was his 2nd home run this spring.
No, not at the Phillies; or at least we think not anymore…however, he is having an interesting spring so far with the Mariners. On Monday in a game against the D-Backs, Lee was actually ejected from a Spring Training game for the first time in his career. For what? He was tossed for intentionally throwing at a batter’s head. The intended victim was D-Backs catcher Chris Snyder; teammate Mark Reynolds stood up for Snyder after the game, calling Lee’s actions “bush league.”
But did Lee really do it on purpose? Reynolds purports, “I’ve faced Cliff Lee plenty of times to know he’s got amazing control.” Check out the video and judge for yourself.
UPDATE: The league has now suspended Lee for 5 games at the start of the season for what they are calling an “intentional” act.
Tosh.0 Redeems A Philly Fan
Remember the adorable little girl who was all over TV last year for tossing her Daddy’s prized foul ball catch back onto the field? Well, the father-daughter team are back and Daniel Tosh of Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0” gave little Emily a chance at redemption. Check it out:
I am not sure what is more adorable; Emily tossing the Mardi Gras beads or her proclamation that tea parties are better than baseball. Funny stuff!
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Photos by Jenn
In the 3rd inning of today’s Phillies-Pirates match-up in Bradenton, FL, Placido Polanco tripped on the pitcher’s mound trying to catch a pop-up. He limped off the field and is said to have a right knee strain. Initial reports are that it is not serious and Polly should be back in action in 3 or 4 days. This is first real injury for the Phillies in camp thus far and we hope it is the last.
Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire
The other interesting news came from Buster Olney of ESPN this week; he claims that his “sources” had reported that the Phillies were talking about swapping 1st baseman with the Cardinals.
That’s right, in Olney’s alternate universe, Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols would trade places. Perhaps Olney’s “sources” were aliens from Mars? Or maybe it was just the little voices inside his head who yearn to see Olney locked up in a padded room?
The odds of this sort of swap happening are astronomical; it is not even a fair trade. No offense to Howard, but clearly Pujols is the better overall player. Yes, Howard is from St. Louis, but this is no reason for the Cards to think they would get him cheap. And the Phillies could never afford Pujols. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was so perturbed at the news, he flat out called Olney a liar. “It’s ridiculous,” Amaro said. “It’s unequivocally false. It’s unfair to Ryan. It’s unfair to the organization to have to answer the questions.”
Despite all the drama, the Phillies went on to win today by a score of 5-1. Roy Halladay gave up his first run of Spring and also walked two batters; all this means is we now have proof that the man is not a robot. I think we can all live with the 1.00 ERA.
While the starting pitching looks good, some of the relievers do not. JC Romero will not be ready for Opening Day so one of the young lefties will need to step up to fill the void. However, neither Antonio Bastardo, Sergio Escalona or Mike Zagurski have looked ready to do so thus far. Bastardo has allowed 3 runs over 2 innings of work; Escalona has 5 runs allowed in 3 innings; and Zagurski only made 1 appearance. He is still trying to get back in the groove after Tommy John surgery. One of these three lefties will need to show that they can do the job and right now, it does not look good.
Pet Peeve of The Week
So many MLB teams these days have radio and TV announcers that leave a lot to be desired. Realizing that Philly fans were spoiled for decades with the great Harry Kalas, it may be an unfair comparison. However, during the Phillies-Pirates match-up today, a Pirates announcer took “unprofessional” to a new level. Tim Neverett, hired in December 2008, does play-by-play for the Bucos. And today, he did not win any brownie points from Philly fans.
In the middle of the 4th inning, Neverett began praising the team’s mascot, the Pirate Parrot and mentioned how he was harassing Philly fans in the stands. He went on to say, “I think the Parrot likes this. There’s no better group of fans to tease than the Philadelphia fans…(pause)…Because there’s no worse fans. The same people who boo Santa Claus are now getting it from the Pirate Parrot.”
First of all, the Santa Claus incident was in 1968 at an Eagles football game. Get over it. Secondly, there are “no worse fans?” Seriously? Apparently, Mr. Neverett must be a world traveler who has first-hand knowledge of such things. While I am not going to waste time comparing Philly fans to experiences I have had elsewhere, I will say that such a general statement is both ignorant and rude.
A small segment of fans of ANY team are bound to be obnoxious and disruptive. That is human nature. You expect to hear this sort of prejudice from those obnoxious fans, not from the radio announcer who is being paid to be objective and professional. You want rude? Ok then, BOO YOU Mr. Neverett! You should be ashamed.
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Photos by Jenn
With just under 3 days left until the official start of Spring Training, the Phillies are getting ready to make a push for a third consecutive National League pennant. The position players and the bench players are basically set but the pitching situation has a lot of question marks. As for the starters, will Cole Hamels bounce back after a disappointing 2009? Will JA Happ suffer from the sophomore slump? And who will fill the 5th starters spot?
The rotation currently looks like this: Roy Halladay, Hamels, Joe Blanton and Happ. The 5th spot looks to be a toss-up between Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer. Kendrick’s ups and downs plus his lack of diversity in pitch selection do not bode well. Then again, Moyer is coming off 3 surgeries, lengthy hospital stays and also has his age (47) working against him. Moyer told Comcast Sportsnet this week that his recovery is basically done and he is ready to try pitching again. How that will work out remains to be seen.
Bigger question marks loom in the bullpen. It appears that the Phillies only solid lefty, JC Romero, may not be ready to go until May after his arm surgery late last season. Two other solid pen pieces are gone this year; Scott Eyre retired and Chan Ho Park will not return, although, Park has yet to find a team willing to take him on. Youngsters Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona may fill the lefty void, but at what cost? Both were wild last year during their travels between the majors and minors and will need to really step up this Spring if they are to be counted on this season.
The closer position is also a big question; will we see the perfect Brad Lidge of 2008 or the first to worst Lidge of 2009? The injury and surgery history with Lidge do not breed confidence. However, he should at least be motivated by the thought of redeeming himself after last year. If he fails to do so, former closer and off-season pick-up Danys Baez may be able to fill the role. As for the rest of the pen, Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin will return as two of the few solid pieces left over from the last few years.
Aside from pitching, there does not seem to be much to worry about. Placido Polanco may need time to adjust to the move from 2nd to 3rd base, but he has done that before so the issue should be minimal. He has certainly added a better bat to the line-up.
Jimmy Rollins will need to get off to a fast start to boost his confidence after a forgettable 2009. Rollins has stated he will show up to camp with the pitchers and catchers on the first day to get a head start; This will be a nice contrast to his usual routine of being the last player to report in previous years. As for the Rollins crystal ball, all he would say this year is that Halladay will be a 20+ game winner. Not a huge leap for Psychic Rollins, but we’ll take it.
As for the rest of the gang, if they can stay healthy, this will be a monster line-up for opponents to deal with. But first, let’s see how Spring Training goes :O)
Photos by Jenn
Today the Phillies agreed to terms with 32-year old right-handed relief pitcher Danys Baez, formerly of the Orioles. Pending the physical exam, Baez will be given a 2-year contract. He went 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 59 games last year, did not pitch in 2008 due to ligament surgery on his right pitching elbow and had a dismal 2007 with a 6.44 ERA in 53 games. Baez does have closing experience, which might be helpful if Brad Lidge is not ready to pitch in 2010.
However, this move is still a bit of a head scratcher. Baez had two good seasons; his rookie year in 2001 and with Tampa Bay in 2005. But his lifetime ERA is 4.04 with a record of 35-49. Charlie Manuel managed him from 2001-2001 when he played for the Indians, which we all know means that Chuck likes him a bunch, as he does most of his ex-players. It is easy to assume that played a factor in the decision.
Also, Baez is a righty, and the pen is in desperate need of lefties with only JC Romero signed and a few rookie possibilities. Scott Eyre’s future is still uncertain. So, this move tells us a few things: #1 – The Phillies are not confident that Lidge will be game-ready in April. #2 – The Phillies are willing to take their chances with the left-handed rookies, Sergio Escalona and Antonio Bastardo. #3 – Although we do not know the contract amount yet, it is safe to assume Baez came cheap. That means, the Phillies have blown their payroll and this will be the last big move, aside from handing out a few raises.
Another pitcher whose status is uncertain is Jamie Moyer. He has had 2 surgeries already since September, 3 hospital visits, 2 blood infections, a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) and a partridge in a pear tree. Well, at least there was a little holiday cheer thrown in for him. All that and he is now scheduled for surgery #3 in January on his right knee to repair his meniscus. At 47 years of age, one has to wonder if Moyer will be able to recover from such an ordeal and come back to pitch effectively. Then again, if anyone can defy the laws of aging, it would be Moyer. I wish him the best of luck and a speedy recovery!
I would also like to take this time to wish everyone out there a very Happy New Year! Be safe :O)
Photo by Jenn
With the big trades now out of the way, Phillies fans are still left wondering who will fill the voids in the bullpen for 2010. Chan Ho Park is unlikely to return as discussions with the club have not been fruitful. Scott Eyre is still a maybe and those returning from injury, like Brad Lidge and JC Romero, may not be ready to go in April. There are a number of names being tossed around like the ageless John Smoltz, Bob Howry of the Giants and Kiko Calero of the Marlins. However, it does not look like the Phils are close to a solution yet.
The two young lefties they used a bit last year who may fill some holes are Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona. Bastardo appeared in only 6 games before being put on the DL with a shoulder injury. He was very wild in the zone and oddly enough, pitched better to right-handed batters than lefties. Bastardo shows potential, but there is still a big question mark as to whether he can cut it in the Majors. Escalona pitched in 14 games and ended with a 4.61 ERA. Lefties hit only .200 off him. But at 25 years of age and lacking experience, how much he can help out as a lefty specialist is unknown.
The bottom line is, the Phillies need bullpen arms. And the ones they have need to get and stay healthy. IF GM Ruben Amaro Jr. cannot pull off a decent trade and are forced to rely on youngsters like Bastardo and Escalona, it is going to be another rocky year for the pen.
As for the rest of the team, the Phillies have guaranteed a solid infield for at least the next 2 years as they have picked up the option on Jimmy Rollins’ contract. The 8.5 million dollar option ensures Rollins will stay with the club at least through 2011.
This move was a no-brainer; Rollins is an integral part of the nucleus of this team. He is also the best dancer on the team, which in terms of sheer entertainment value, is totally worth the 8.5 million.
Photos by Jenn
The post-season roster has not been set for the Phillies; they have until 10am tomorrow to make the final decision. The central core is not in question, with 6 current and former All-Stars in starting roles. However, the pitching rotation, bullpen and bench players are going to be tough decisions.
Manager Charlie Manuel seems to favor Eric Bruntlett on the bench because he runs well and can play almost every position in the field. However, Bruntlett has not hit well and ended the year with 18 hits in 105 at-bats for a .171 average. Miguel Cairo has performed much better and can play most of the infield spots; he ended the season batting .267 and went 7 for his last 19 including a triple and a home run in the final game.
While Cairo should get the nod over Bruntlett, it may not happen that way. Bruntlett was with the team last year and Manuel tends to favor guys he is most familiar with. Both could make the team, but only if they sacrifice a bullpen spot. Ben Francisco, Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs should all be locks for the roster, despite the facts that Dobbs has been playing hurt and Stairs batted only .194 this year with 5 homers in 103 at-bats.
The pitching is even more complicated. Most likely Cliff Lee will start game 1 as Cole Hamels would only have 3 days rest. However, Lee has been mostly awful in his last 7 starts, allowing 27 runs in 39 2/3 innings. That is an ERA of about 6.13. Not good. The Phillies hope he will turn things around for his first post-season appearance.
Hamels was equally inconsistent, ending the season with a record of 10-11 and a 4.32 ERA. Pedro Martinez has been dealing with a sore neck, so his ability to pitch deep into a game effectively is in serious question. Joe Blanton and JA Happ have been the only two good, consistent arms in the rotation all year and now Happ may get bumped to the bullpen due to a lack of lefties. That would be a real shame though, because Happ has the best record of the starting staff with 12 wins, 4 losses and an ERA of 2.93. Honestly, I think they need to keep Happ as a starter and take their chances with the lefty situation in the pen. Happ is more valuable for 6-7 innings than he would be for only a few batters.
That brings us to the pen, which is basically a mess. Every regular bullpen pitcher has suffered at least one injury this year, except Ryan Madson. Right now, JC Romero, Jamie Moyer and Chan Ho Park are still hurt and will not play in the NLDS; Moyer is done for the year. That leaves Scott Eyre as the only experienced lefty, and he is pitching through a sore elbow. Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, Brad Lidge and Madson are on the roster for sure. That leaves Tyler Walker, Kyle Kendrick, Brett Myers and the 2 rookies, Sergio Escalona and Antonio Bastardo to fill the remaining spots.
Escalona and Bastardo are both lefties but lack experience and have exhibited a lack of pitching control at times as well. It would be tough to add one of them to the roster, even though lefties are needed. Kendrick spent most of the year in the minors, but pitched fairly well for the big club in September until his last outing where he gave up 3 runs. And Myers has suffered two injuries which kept him out almost the whole year and he still does not look quite right. That leaves Tyler Walker whose 3.06 ERA is 3rd best in the pen, behind Eyre and Condrey.
But with all the injuries, the Phillies options are limited. My best guess is this: Madson, Lidge, Condrey, Eyre, Durbin, Walker and Myers with Pedro Martinez added to the list instead of Happ. That makes 12 pitchers total, including the 4 starters: Happ, Lee, Hamels and Blanton. Although, if one lefty in the pen looks problematic, they may keep Bastardo instead of Walker. Of course, I may be totally off. We shall see.