Tagged: Spring Training

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

Phillies Putting All Their Eggs In One Basket

The Phillies have made a few egg-head moves in the last week or so.  First, they released utility infielder Yuniesky Betancourt, who will now reportedly sign with the Brewers.  And now they have released pitcher Aaron Cook, who appeared to be a lock as the unofficial 6th starter in the Phillies rotation.  Cook pitched in 6 spring training games, posting a 3.38 ERA over 18.2 innings.

Last year, Kyle Kendrick fit into this spot nicely, filling in when a starter was needed due to injury.  But Kendrick is #4 in the rotation now.  Cook performed well enough this spring to become the new Kendrick, but apparently a $100,000 bonus was too much for the Phillies to handle.  So instead of paying him, Cook was sent packing.

Granted, Cook did not pitch well in the majors over the past several years.  But neither did John Lannan, who coincidentally gave up 12 runs in his last 4 innings of work this spring.  And Lannan is starter #5.  Cook appeared to be improving and was the Phillies only veteran option to start a game in the event that a started gets injured.

The Phillies have now put all their eggs in one basket, filled with 5 starters, 2 of whom are on shaky ground.  Lannan is an unknown at this point; he has not been consistent this spring.  Even more frightening, Roy Halladay has been awful.  Last season, he pitched injured, and the results certainly showed it.  This spring, Halladay has been sick with a stomach virus, experienced a dead-arm, complained of fatigue and his velocity is way down.

If Halladay cannot get back to pitching like a major-leaguer, this team is in serious trouble.  And with Cook’s release, the only option they have if Halladay goes down is to toss a minor league pitcher into the fire and hope he does not get burned.  With the imminent arrival of the Easter Bunny this weekend and Opening Day on Monday, they had better hope their eggs do not start to crack.

 

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Phillies Spring: As The Tummy Turns…

The 2013 Phillies Spring Training is turning in a soap opera of sorts.  Strange things are afoot.  A recent “trade” report may be the strangest of them all.

According to a tweet from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com and a short note in a MLB.com article, the Phillies have literally given away a solid minor league pitcher to the Angels.  Right-hander Michael Cisco averaged a 1.70 ERA with a combined 13-3 record over his last 2 seasons in the minors.  The 25-year old was sent to Los Angeles without as much as a handshake.  I am confused.

Can anyone out there shed some light on why anyone in their right mind would hand over a guy who could be a future major league pitcher for absolutely nothing in return?  Did they at least get a fruit basket out of it?  Or is this some weird, new baseball Mafia where the Angels will now owe Ruben Amaro Jr. a favor?  I guess he made them an offer they could not refuse.

Or worse, did Cisco do something so morally reprehensible that the Phillies would just cut him loose?  For a team that signed anger-management frequent flyer, Delmon Young, in the offseason, I find this theory to be highly unlikely.

So if none of the above theories hold water, the only remaining option is sheer stupidity.  Either that, or the media did not get the whole story.

And if that story does not make you feel ill, this one will: Roy Halladay went green for St. Patrick’s Day yesterday, and not in a good way.  He turned green on the mound and left after only one inning due to an apparent stomach virus.  All these little bumps in the road for Halladay this spring are beginning to pile up.

It has not been a good spring thus far for Halladay.  He has looked exhausted at times, even without a stomach bug, and his velocity has reportedly dipped.  While slow and steady wins the race, all we are seeing so far is the slow part.

This latest illness appears to be legit as teammate Jonathan Papelbon is reportedly sick as well.  However, Halladay fell ill a number of times in the last few seasons, plus he seems to tire faster, sweat more and turn red in the face pretty often.  And this spring, he has not looked well, even before reports of the stomach issue.  One almost has to wonder if there is more to the story here.

But I am not a doctor, so I will not speculate further.  Let us hope Halladay is well soon and will be ready for the start of the season.  In the meantime, more drama is nearly guaranteed to ensue…stay tuned.

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Are We Seriously Only Halfway Through Spring Training?

Is it just me, or is it taking forever to get to the regular season?  I was excited when Spring Training began, because a little baseball is better than no baseball.  But that excitement has waned slowly and transformed into impatience.  Can we get to the real games already!

There is not much else in Philly to get excited about right now.  The Flyers are good one day, and suck the next.  They are in last place in their division.  And the 76ers are all but out of playoff contention, unless a small miracle occurs.  And no, that miracle will not be Andrew Bynum, who does not appear to have any desire to play this year.  He will sit back and collect his massive paycheck.

Some people are excited about the Papal Conclave in Rome.  I get it.  I was just in Rome this past October; I took the whole 9-mile tour of the Vatican museums, St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel.  It was an ethereal experience for sure.  But unless the smoke coming out of that chapel chimney signals the start of the regular season, I don’t have much to get excited about.

They will pick a new pope.  Some people will celebrate, some will complain and life will go on.  But what I really need is some baseball!

I like Spring Training; it is a necessary part of baseball.  But some things about it annoy me.  Mainly, that it is 6-weeks long, the games don’t count and the fact that I am not in Florida right now.  Ugh.

However, there have been a number of rather interesting incidents this spring.  A Hooter’s ball girl screwed up and fielded a fair ball (not that interesting I guess; this happens every year); Charlie Manuel was accosted by a strange man on a tricycle at a game against the Astros; and several Phillies playing for Team Canada in the WBC brawled with Team Mexico this past Saturday.  Apparently, Pete Orr was thrown out of the game.  Tyson Gillies, who has a habit of finding trouble, body slammed a Red Sox pitcher who was playing for Mexico.  And Phillies Sebastian Valle, who played for Mexico, swung his catcher’s helmet at opposing players, despite their being at least 3 of his Phillies teammates on Canada’s team.  Oops.

So while Spring Training has not been dull, it is just not over yet!  But we are half-way there and everyone, so far, is healthy (cross all fingers and toes)…3 weeks to go!

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Baby Steps to a Rejuvenated Phillies Team

The first inning of the Phillies very first official Spring Training game on Saturday offered a glimpse into what the near future could look like for this team.  And it was a very nice picture, full of promise.

Ben Revere led off by doing exactly what we have been told he can do a lot of; run out an infield single.  He followed that up with a very convincing stolen base.  This kid can fly.

Another new Phillies, Michael Young, did his job moving the runner over the 3rd base.  It was textbook small ball; very nice.

And then for the first time in 3 years, Chase Utley stepped to the plate in a Spring Training game.  Utley needs to prove to the world, but mostly to himself, that he finally has his knee issues under control.  And he did just that with his classic, short swing and a line-drive that scored Revere from 3rd base.

In a perfect world, this is what the Phillies need to do every inning of every game.

However, in the real world, this is just one baby step towards a much larger goal.  Get this team healthy and the wins will come.

Roy Halladay took his own baby step on Sunday by starting a game against the Tigers.  He went 2 innings in his first spring action and allowed a solo homer.  But just having Halladay back on the mound and feeling no pain is comforting.

These games were not pretty, by any means.  But in Spring Training, they are not meant to be.  This is the time to make mistakes, learn from them and enter the regular season with total confidence.

Over the last few days, the Phillies have made those little strides.  And with any luck, things will progress in a positive direction from here.

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Magic Moments of Phillies Spring Training

The first official Spring Training game for the Phillies will take place on Saturday.  I am excited for baseball!  But there is also a little sadness that I cannot be in Clearwater this year to enjoy the first crack of the bat under the warm Florida sunshine.  If you are lucky enough to be heading south, enjoy it!

Spring Training is a magical moment in time where players are generally happy, relaxed and having a good time.  The fan-friendly atmosphere and nice weather draws big crowds each year.  And while the games are interesting, they really don’t mean much.  The real reason to head to Clearwater is to mingle with other fans, chat with players, get autographs and photos and, most importantly, get a closer look at how major leaguers behave when their guard is down.

You may notice a lot of smiles, laughter and silly hijinks.  To demonstrate, and also to get you in the Spring Training frame of mind, here are some of my favorite photos and moments from years past in Clearwater:

First up, the normally quiet and reserved Chase Utley laughs out loud and on another occasion, poses and smiles for me:

Jimmy Rollins waves hello and later attempts to play golf with his bat and ball:

Phillies alum Mike Schmidt has some fun with Reggie Jackson; Charlie Manuel jokes around with his players:

Remember Fan Fest?  For some reason, the Phillies have cancelled this annual tradition of meeting players and getting autographs.  But it was amazing while it lasted.  Here are Chad Durbin and Kyle Kendrick signing and posing for me:

I attended a few Team USA games while in Clearwater.  The most memorable moment was watching Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter of the Yankees field balls side-by-side during warm-ups.  The second photo is Chooch, Carlos Ruiz, making an odd face at batting practice:

Here we have the Big Man, Ryan Howard, yucking it up on the field and later doing his impersonation of an airplane (or maybe he was just playing 1st base?):

And finally, just me and my camera hanging out by the field before batting practice.  You can see how close fans can get to the field:

Are you ready to pack your bags yet?  Wishing I was….sigh.  Maybe next year :O)

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

An Emotional Offseason

A recent Sports Illustrated article graded the Phillies offseason moves a “D.”  They summarized it by saying, “Though the trade for Revere gives the Phillies a cost-controlled centerfielder to grow on, they’ve taken steps backward with most of their other moves, and are more likely to repeat last year’s middling showing than contend in a division where the Nationals and Braves have upgraded in impressive fashion.

Ouch.

This assessment, however, may or may not be totally off-base.  I decided to rank some of these moves for myself using not grades, but my emotions about each event.  Roger Ebert once said, “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”  Let’s see if he is correct:

Happy: The trade for centerfielder Ben Revere.  He is cheap, young and has room for improvement.  My instinct says he will be a pleasant surprise.

Nostalgic Joy: Re-signing RHP Chad Durbin.  Durbin is a solid human being and he had a great 2012 with the Braves.  Plus he helped the Phillies collect their 2008 World Series championship.

Cautiously Optimistic: Signing Michael Young to play third base.  Young seems like another solid human being with a true passion for the game.  The question is whether or not he can still play defense.  I feel that a guy with this much experience and motivation should be able to work it out.

Conflicted: Adding Chase Utley-hater and lefty John Lannan to the starting rotation.  Obviously with the departure of Vance Worley, the Phillies needed a starter.  Lannan is cheap, but how well he will perform and his attitude are, at least for me, big question marks.

Confused: Signing outfielder Delmon Young.  This guy is a problem child who is also still recovering from offseason ankle surgery.  His defense is awful and he has been, not without cause, labeled an anti-Semite with a bad temper.  I get the low-risk, high reward school of thought here.  What I do not get is why the Phillies would rather mess around with this guy than finally give Domonic Brown a full-time shot at one of the corner outfield spots.

Nervously Nauseous: I am just a wee bit sick to my tummy about the 2-year, $12 million deal the Phillies gave to RHP Mike Adams to be the 8th inning guy.  I like Adams if he is healthy.  However, he is recovering from thoracic outlet surgery.  This is the same surgery that Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals had and his career looks like it may be over.  That is a little scary.

Utter Disappointment: Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension for using a banned substance.  He did not use steroids, which is a relief.  But still, getting caught with ADHD meds when he was forewarned about it after a previously positive test is very disappointing.  He knew he’d probably get caught again and did it anyway.  *Sigh.*

Sad: Losing Vance Worley in the Ben Revere trade.  I wish him luck in Minnesota!

Indifferent:  Everything else.  A lot of minor moves were made, mostly involving minor league deals and guys past their prime.  Unless someone makes a real impact in camp, I cannot imagine there will be much to say about these miscellaneous people.

And my final emotion of the day…

Elation!  Spring Training starts tomorrow!

 

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