Archive for the ‘ MLB ’ Category

2014 Opening Day Roster

The Phillies have announced their Opening Day roster and were few surprises.  Here is how it worked out:

Pitchers (12): Right-handers A.J. Burnett, Justin De Fratus, Roberto Hernandez, Kyle Kendrick, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Manship, Jonathan Papelbon and B.J. Rosenberg and left-handers Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, Mario Hollands and Cliff Lee.

Catchers (2): Wil Nieves and Carlos Ruiz.

Infielders (6): Cody Asche, Cesar Hernandez, Ryan Howard, Jayson Nix, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley.

Outfielders (5): Domonic Brown, Marlon Byrd, Tony Gwynn Jr., John Mayberry Jr. and Ben Revere.

They also resigned Ronny Cedeno to a minor league deal so he will be at Triple-A until he is needed.  And Jayson Nix, brother of former Phillies Laynce Nix, was signed a few days ago and put on the roster as an extra infielder.

Also of note, the Phillies will begin with only 4 starting pitchers as, due to off days, that is all they will need the first few weeks of the season.  Relief pitcher Mario Hollands was a bit of a surprise to make the roster as he has pitched in only 3 games above Double-A ball (2012, AAA Iron Pigs).  But he was impressive in camp; he will be interesting to watch.

The final spring tune-up on Sunday was canceled due to rain L  That was a bummer as I was hoping to meet some of the new players before the game.  So I wound up going to the 76ers game instead later that night.

The Sixers finally broke their 26-game losing streak in a dominating performance over the Detroit Pistons.  And that win prevented them from becoming the all-time worst team in all major sports.  Instead, they are tied.  But still worse than the 1961 Phillies, so that is an achievement.

Sixers fans were so relieved, with 5 minutes left in the game, chants of “Thank You Detroit” rang out all over the stadium.  Nicely done, Philly fans.

As for the Phillies, Cliff Lee will take the mound in Texas tomorrow against the Rangers for 2014 Opening Day.  Finally, some real baseball!  Game time is 2:05pm.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Decisions Loom for Phillies

As Spring Training nears its end, the Phillies have a number of decisions to make. Some will be made a little easier with injuries and illnesses playing a role. Darren Ruf is out 4-6 weeks with a strained oblique and utility infielder Freddy Galvis is sidelined indefinitely with a nasty MRSA infection. MRSA is a drug-resistant staph infection that is very difficult to treat. Hopefully, Galvis will pull through soon.

With just those two injuries, it looked like there would be room after all for both outfielders Tony Gwynn Jr. and Bobby Abreu. But then Abreu sat out yesterday with shoulder soreness. There is no word on how serious it is, but this certainly may affect his chances of making the team. The Phillies have until tomorrow to decide.

They will also have to decide on whether to keep Ronnie Cedeno today as a utlility infielder. With Galvis now out of the picture, his odds are better. But the Phillies also have to consider Cesar Hernandez and Reid Brignac for that spot.

But the real shocker this week so far has been the Phillies decision to outright Kevin Frandsen. He now has to decide whether to go to Triple-A or become a free agent. Frandsen has brought a lot of much needed energy to this team the last several seasons, which were otherwise dull and depressing. He was also the best pinch hitter in the majors last year with 14 pinch hits. It would be a real shame to see him go. But I do not know if many teams are knocking on his door, so free agency may not be a good option for him (or wishful thinking on my part). If he takes the Triple-A option, he could still make the team at some point.

In other news, Cole Hamels says he feels “great.” Is it just me, or have we heard this before? Don’t hold your breath…it will be at least a month before he is ready to go, barring anymore “not great” feelings.

And as an interesting side note, the Phillies have announced new food items for the 2014 season at the ballpark. Hold onto your arteries before you decide to try the new hotdog topped with bacon and melted cheese or the burger with fried egg. My heart aged 10 years just thinking about eating that.

6 days until Opening Day…

UPDATE: Frandsen just opted for free agency.  I am sad :(  He will be sorely missed…best of luck to him!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Abreu or Gwynn?

Blast from the past Bobby Abreu was asked to Phillies camp this year to compete for a back-up outfield spot. Then again, so was Tony Gwynn Jr., son of the late Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Gwynn Jr. is 9 years younger than Abreu and has been showing off his skills in Spring Training. He is younger, faster and hitting better than Abreu.

BobbyBut wouldn’t it be nice to see Abreu back with the team? I have to root for a guy in his 40’s who still thinks he has some left in the tank. I admire his spirit. Plus he does take a lot of pitches and gets on base often.

I cannot imagine the Phillies will have room for both on the roster so it appears there will have to be a decision at some point. Here are a few short comparisons to help us decide:

- Gwynn could reduce the average age of the team; Abreu could be a granddaddy.

- Gwynn is likely to pull the ball; Abreu is likely to pull a muscle.

- Gwynn has a famous father; Abreu has a famous sweet tooth (nickname: El Comaduce, The Candy Man).

- Abreu has nostalgia on his side; Gwynn has a .307 spring batting average on his side.

When I put it like that, although in good fun, I have to admit Gwynn has the edge. But it isn’t over just yet…come on Bobby! I am still rooting for you!

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Photo by USA Today

More J-Roll Drama at Phillies Camp

I am sure most of us have heard about the Jimmy Rollins – Ryne Sandberg drama at Spring Training this week. To recap very quickly, J-Roll was being J-Roll and let fly a “Who cares?” when asked about the team’s offense. And then Sandberg let fly a telling, “No comment” when asked about Jimmy bringing positive energy to the club. Rollins was benched for 3 straight days (Mon.-Wed.) without having spoken to Sandberg until Thursday.

Before I offer my thoughts on the situation, I will tell you a little story from Spring Training 2009. I make it a habit to arrive to all games, even Spring Training games, many hours early. That is when some of the most entertaining and interesting things happen. Before one 2009 spring game in Bradenton, FL against the Pirates, I witnessed some real J-Roll being J-Roll behavior.

As the team was stretching on the field, manager Charlie Manual was pacing about, looking annoyed. And one player was noticeably absent from the field: Jimmy Rollins. About 20 minutes into this, Rollins suddenly appeared jogging across the field. When the team noticed him, everyone, mid-stretch, stopped what they were doing and began clapping and cheering for Rollins as he approached. It was group sarcasm, although in good fun, to congratulate Rollins for finally showing up.

As I was right up against the fence where they were stretching, I saw and hear nearly everything that happened next. Manual sauntered over to Rollins with his irritated, head-tilted, almost twitchy swagger that we have seen many time over the years. Usually you saw this when Manual was about to confront an umpire.

As Manual berated Rollins, wagging finger and all, Rollins slouched over like a 5 year old getting yelled at for stealing a cookie. He even pouted. Rollins then made various hand gestures to explain how he got stuck in traffic and then got turned around, etc… A lot veteran players these days don’t like taking the team bus to spring away games, so it was not too unusual that Rollins drove himself. Still, everyone else was on-time.

022509a1Ryan Howard then wandered over and put his arm around Rollins to comfort him, again, like a 5 year old whimpering after being punished. Manual just kept talking. It was very clear that this was not the first time Rollins broke the rules. And as we all know, it would not be the last.

But under Manual, Rollins got used to being “scolded” and then simply going about his business after some comforting words from a few teammates. This has been a decade-long pattern. So does it really surprise anyone that in this most recent incident Sandberg decided to give Rollins the silent treatment? When you were a kid, what was worse? Getting yelled at or being ignored and having to wonder what you did wrong? The silent treatment doesn’t work on everyone; however, I am sure Sandberg felt like at the very least, he needed to try something different than what Manual had done.

I have heard a lot of criticism of Sandberg the last few days for not speaking to Rollins right away. Personally, I think giving Rollins days to stew over what was going on may have an effect going forward. Although Rollins did nearly hang himself in the media afterwards with comments like, “Well, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion. It doesn’t make it right, but he’s the manager so he gets to have the last say.” I am sure that did not endear him to Sandberg at all. But as the new manager, Sandberg is going to have to think outside the box when dealing with player issues, especially with those players who have become used to a very different style of management.

How will J-Roll react now that he and Sandberg have put the issue to rest? Time will tell.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

I’m Back – Can the Same Be Said for the Phillies?

After a very long vacation from blogging, I’m back. I have just a quick list of excuses for my absence. For starters, I have experienced a complete life “do-over.” After some hair-raising experiences including the deaths of 3 friends/family, I changed jobs, relationships, bought a house and am going back to school to work on my Master’s degree. Change is good. Trust me on this one.

Change for the Phillies thus far this offseason, however, has been minimal. It was less change and more resurrecting history when the Phils signed Marlon Byrd, Bobby Abreu (minor league deal), Larry Bowa (bench coach) and Charlie Manual, rehired as an advisor. Not to mention dumping Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews in favor of Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer in the broadcasting booth. And don’t forget Mike Schmidt on air for Sunday games. It’s a reunion!

Did you realize there are now no less than 4 Phillies managers back with the 2014 team? The current manager, obviously, is Ryne Sandberg. Former managers on staff also include Manual, Bowa and Dallas Green (front office). That is incredible. If you want to be with a team for life, sign with the Phillies!

With all of these blasts from the past, the season will at the very least be interesting to watch. But my initial impressions so far in watching Spring Training games are not too encouraging. The offense is still in hiding, as it has been for about 3+ years now. Ok, I know it is only Spring Training, but the Braves have no problem putting up 8-9 runs a game right now so why can’t the Phils? Also, many pitchers, like Cole Hamels, are already or still hurt. But hey, the defense looks pretty good J

Of the few moves the Phillies did make this offseason, I actually like the return of Marlon Byrd. He did well with the Pirates last year, he has been open about his previous suspension and above all, he has something to prove. I love his attitude so far and he appears to have at least brought some smiles back to camp.

Beyond that, not much stands out. Ryan Howard has proclaimed his perfect health. That is nice, but we will have to wait to see if results follow. Howard will be under even more pressure this year now that he and the team are adamant that he is 100%. If he falters early, I shudder to think of the reaction from the press and the fans. They will tear the Big Piece into little pieces. I do not envy his position.

I have begun counting the days until the first real pitch of the season to see what this team really has to offer. Is the winning team back or just a rerun of last year? More thoughts on Spring Training to come…stay tuned.

Sandberg Signed; Phils Swept by Mets

It’s official – The Phillies announced today that Ryne Sandberg is no longer the “interim” manager.  He has been signed to a 3-year deal, with a club option for a 4th year.  With a new manager in place, everyone was smiling and laughing before the game.

But the smiles faded as the day wore on.  It is a shame the Phillies could not scrape out a win for Sandberg today; they got swept by the Mets in a 3-game series.

For the first 3 innings, Cliff Lee was so sharp, it looked like he may pitch a no-hitter.  But he ran into trouble in the 4th inning and allowed a run.  He wound up allowing 2 runs over 7 innings, which is still great, but only helpful if the offense does its part.

At the plate, the Phillies left too many runners on base (8) and went 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.  There were a few amusing moments, like when Cliff Lee swung the bat so hard, it split in two, even though he did not hit the ball (see photo).  And Chase Utley apparently got a big chuckle out of the Mets pick-off attempt.

There were also many adventures in the outfield with balls played off the wall that could have been caught, Domonic Brown bobbling a ball which allowed an extra run to score and the Phanatic lost his shirt again.

And in the end, the Phillies could not muster a win.  I suppose that was a fitting end to the home games in a sad 2013 season.

Here is the full Photo Album from today’s game, including pre-game shots.

The Phillies go to Miami on Monday for the second-to-last series of the year.  Game time is 7:10pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Sweep Braves Behind Hamels and Ruf

An odd thing happened today.  The Phillies actually showed signs of life as they swept the division leading Braves in a 3-game series.  Inspired baseball is not something we have seen a lot of this year, so this game was a real treat.

On top of his game again, Cole Hamels pitched 8 innings, allowing only 2 solo homers, both of which were absolutely murdered off the bat of Evan Gattis.  The official word is that the 1st homer went 486 feet, which is a MLB record for the season.  Yikes!

But aside from Gattis, Hamels had few problems.

The Phillies scored two runs in the first inning, but could not seem to kick start a rally after that despite some base runners.

Actually, base running was a bit of an adventure on this day.  Jimmy Rollins stole a base, which was a plus.  But rookie centerfielder Cesar Hernandez got picked off right before that and then was thrown out later in the game because he hesitated going around second base.  He received a bit of coaching from Chase Utley in between innings (see photo):

The defense was solid and fans were oohing and ahhing again over Cody Asche, who made a few more spectacular plays.

With the game still tied in the 8th inning, the Phillies needed a spark.  Darin Ruf provided the juice, and the lead, with a solo home run, his 13th of the year.

The Phils went into the 9th with a 3-2 lead and, luckily, passed on Jonathan Papelbon who had blown a save the night before.  Papelbon also pitched 3 out of the last 4 days.  So instead, B.J. Rosenberg pitched a clean 9th inning for his first career save.

Here is the Photo Album from Sunday’s game, including a bunch of pre-game photos.

The Phils are off tomorrow and will face the Padres on Tuesday at 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Halladay Shows Signs of Life In Return After Surgery

After missing 3 months of the season due to right shoulder surgery, Roy Halladay finally returned to the mound for the Phillies yesterday.  The stars aligned in favor of Sunday ticket holders when the Phillies used up originally scheduled starter Tyler Cloyd in Saturday night’s 18 inning, 7-hour marathon loss to the Diamondbacks.  Halladay was supposed to make a rehab start in Reading on Sunday, but was instead called back to the bigs.  Sorry, Reading fans.

Reading’s loss was Philly’s gain.  Halladay looked a little rusty at first, but eventually found his groove.  Over 6 innings, he allowed only 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks.

Halladay may have given up more if not for the magic glove of Roger Bernadina.  In the 3rd inning, Bernadina made a spectacular jump at the centerfield wall to steal a home run away from Matt Davidson.  Then in the 7th, he made an amazing diving grab on a hit ball that appeared to have no chance of being caught.

 

On offense, Bernadina ended a 0-19 streak on Saturday with 2 hits in that game.  Then in addition to his fun fielding on Sunday, Bernadina collected 2 RBI on double in the 6th inning.  Maybe some regular playing time will get his bat going.  So far, so good.

It was a good day for offense overall.  Darin Ruf sparked the Phils in the 1st inning with an RBI single. Cody Asche had 2 hits and 2 RBI, Chase Utley went 1-1 as a pinch hitter and John Mayberry Jr. smacked a 2-run homer and also had a walk.

Both Asche and Ruf have been impressive both in the field and at the plate.  They are probably close to cementing their places in the line-up next year.

Here is the full Photo Album from the game, including a lot more of Mr. Halladay.

So they might not be making the playoffs, but at least Phillies baseball is a bit more fun to watch now!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Phillies Week In Weird

This has certainly been an interesting week for the Phillies.  Let us review the many weird happenings:

- First, manager Charlie Manual got the axe last Friday and Ryne Sandberg took over.

- People cried, complained and gave Charlie lots of hugs.

- Manual admitted to CSN Philly’s Leslie Gudel that he knew he could not win this year or last year with the team assembled as it was.  Shocker.  Not really…

- On Monday, David Murphy of Philly.com posted an article about how the front office was to blame for the Phillies failures.  Also not a shocker…

- The Phillies Triple-A Iron Pigs gave away a free funeral valued at $10,000 as part of a promotion.  Seriously.

- After 2 losses, Sandberg got his first win as manager on Sunday.

- Sandberg got that win, despite starting Michael Martinez at short stop.  Martinez was boo’ed throughout the game, I assume because starting him or just the fact that he is on this team at all, is emblematic of a very troubled 2013 Phillies season.

- On Tuesday, Roy Halladay made a rehab start in Lakewood.  He appear to be near-MLB ready.

- After Tuesday’s game, Roy Halladay spoke out on the firing of Manual.

In his comments, he added that he thought things were being “overlooked” and said, “I mean guys being at places on time, being on the field on time, taking ground balls and taking extra bp and all those little thing that nobody thinks make a difference.”

As those word emanated from Roy’s mouth, the Phillies experienced something like a meteor/asteroid shower as their happy little universe slowly imploded.  All Halladay really said was what we have all been thinking/wondering about for years.  This team lacks discipline and focus.

But the media took those comments to a whole new level, posting headlines that seemed to indicate that Halladay endorsed Manual’s firing, to which he took great offense.

- Also on Tuesday, the Phillies hosted their 6th annual Jewish Heritage Celebration.  I think we can all agree that releasing Delmon Young prior to this event was a good idea.  Because, man, that would have been AWKWARD.

- On Wednesday, Halladay “clarified” his comments and reiterated his love for Charlie, saying he did not endorse anyone being fired.

- Also on Wednesday, the Phillies took out the Washington Nationals’s trash by signing Roger Bernadina, who was cut by the Nats on Monday.  Bernadina is hitting .176 this season and has not had a hit in over a month.  He will fit right in.

-  On Thursday, Philly.com reported on the secret pornography stash at Veteran’s Stadium, presumably, because they had nothing better to report on.

And yes, all of that and more happened in just under a week.  Is this a great time to be a bored Phillies fan, or what?

Maybe don’t answer that question.  Please feel free to go on with your life as originally planned.  Thank you!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Sandberg Gets First Managerial Win

Well, it took a few days, but the Phillies finally squeaked out a win for interim manager Ryne Sandberg.  The 3-5 win over the Dodgers ended yet another long losing streak for the Phils who are now solidly in 4th place in the NL East, 2.5 games behind the Mets for 3rd place.

Getting this win against the hottest team in baseball was going to require a combination of things to occur.  Pitcher Cole Hamels had to be good, which he was.  Hamels went 7 innings, allowing just 2 runs.

 

The Phillies offense had to produce.  And although it was not at all pretty at times, 7 hits and 3 RBI did the trick.  Carlos Ruiz, who has struggled lately, went 4 for 4 and Darin Ruf smashed a solo homer in the game.

Defensively, the Phillies were coming off a game in which they committed 3 errors.  On Sunday, they managed to cut that down to 1 error.  Ah, progress!

And for once, the bullpen did not implode in late innings.  Both B.J. Rosenberg and Jonathan Papelbon pitched scoreless innings to maintain what was at that point a 2-2 tie game.

And in the bottom of the 9th, a little bit of luck was in order to seal the Phillies win.  Two errors by Dodgers shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, allowed the Phillies to walk off with the victory.  Michael Young got the game-winning RBI as Ramirez fumbled his grounder with the bases loaded.  Casper Wells scored on the error and Ryne Sandberg finally got a win!

Here is the full Photo Album from the game, which includes some fun shots of the Dodgers as well.  Fun stuff like this right here:

Is he pitching or trying some new form of karate?  I cannot decide.

The Rockies come to town for a 4-game series tonight.  Game time is 7:05pm.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

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