Archive for the ‘ Phillies photos ’ Category

Bullpen Killing the Phillies

This Phillies bullpen sucks.  There are few more accurate ways to describe it.  The young pitchers are up one day and way down the next; the veterans are too inconsistent and have the threat of injuries, both past and present, constantly haunting them.

But the real shame of Monday night’s 9-6 loss to the Braves was the wasted 8th inning 5-run rally, including a 3-run shot from Domonic Brown.  That gave the Phillies a 6-5 lead, which was wiped away in the 9th inning with a Dan Uggla Grand Slam.  Ugh.

It seems the 2014 Phillies may actually have the spirit and possibly the offense to carry them to a winning season.  But without the pitching, they are sunk.  It is only mid-April and this team is already breaking records, and not in a good way.

BJRB.J. Rosenberg gave up 3 home runs to consecutive batters last night.  That feat has not occurred in literally over 100 years of MLB history.  Sure, he has a nice fastball.  But clearly, he has no idea what to do with it.

Jake Diekman has a big arm too.  But the lack of experience, recent overuse and general wildness is holding him back.  Pretty much every guy in the Phillies pen is suspect.  Mike Adams is back, but after being out for so long with such an array of injuries, the expectations of him are low.

Even the starting pitching has major issues.  Roberto Hernandez looked winded last night after only 5 innings.  He has yet to make it through 6 innings.  And now A.J. Burnett has been diagnosed with a hernia.  He will pitch through the pain, which is not a comforting thought.

Some of these guys have real talent, like Diekman.  But even the smartest students do not always get good grades.  Many times, the results depend on the teacher.  So why are the Phillies seemingly unable to develop their talent?  And how deep within the organization does this disconnect go?  This is not a new problem.  It seems like every year, the Phillies bring up young pitchers who are just not prepared.

I wish I had the answers to those questions.  Thoughts?  Feel free to comment below.

Game 2 with the Braves begins at 7:05pm tonight.

Feast or Famine: Phillies Sweep the Marlins

After losing 3 straight games to the Brewers, the Phillies bounced back with 3 straight wins over the Marlins.  This all-or-nothing week ended with big offensive performances from 3 players today.

Chase Utley, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Will Nieves all had a 3 hit day.  Nieves knocked in two runs in the 5th to tie the game at 3-3.  And then Utley had the big bang in the 8th with a go-ahead home run, making it a final 4-3 Phillies win.
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Kyle Kendrick pitched mostly well, although he was up and down.  His game started a bit shaky thanks to another Ryan Howard error on the very first batter of the game.  So Kendrick started in a hole right away, but he hung in there.
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Other than the one error, the fielding was fairly clean.  There was one base running blunder as Gwynn Jr. stumbled around third base and went home anyway where he was thrown out.
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But the bullpen came into the late innings and actually held the lead.  In fact, all 3 guys, B.J. Rosenberg, Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon, retired each of the 3 batters they faced.  Finally!
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Speaking of the bullpen, Justin DeFratus has been sent back to the minors after some rather disastrous outings recently.  Luis Garcia has taken his place.

And just one fun note about today’s game, it was Kid’s Opening Day.  As part of that, some children were apparently commissioned to render their best images of Phillies players which were shown during each players first at bat.  Some of the drawings are hysterical.  Check out my Photo Album from the game to see those and more game shots.

The Braves come to town tomorrow.  Game time is 7:05pm.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Field of Nightmares

These are the things that dreams nightmares are made of.  This Phillies – Brewers series has thus far been a horror show of epic proportions.  I awoke at 3am yelling, “How do you miss a routine ground ball?”  I thought, whew, just a bad dream.  And then I remembered, it wasn’t just a dream.

This does beg the question, how does a veteran major league player miss a routine ground ball?  Sure, no one is perfect, stuff happens, etc…  But this “stuff” is happening at an alarming rate.  The Phillies have 5 errors in 2 games and that doesn’t include the many, many other mistakes made that do not have a place to be recorded in the box score.
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For instance, a pitcher gets ahead of batter with a 0-2 count.  He then proceeds to walk the guy.  How does that happen?  Just ask Antonio Bastardo.  Even the Boogeyman, who spends weeks or months hiding under beds, has had better days.

Just as scary, both Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, two of the more veteran guys and biggest salaries on the team, both booted bouncing ground balls yesterday.  But how often does a ground ball take a weird hop?  Answer: All the time!  A major league player should be able to handle this.

As I write this, I realize it is very early in the season and all that.  Still, even this small handful of games is telling of a larger issue.  Even manager Ryne Sandberg admits, “We talk about some of the plays being routine, but we haven’t been making too many of the routine plays lately.”  So, why is that?

Sandberg preaches fundamentals and fielding practice.  All of that is nice, but a guy who has been a professional baseball player for many years knows fundamentals.  The issue is focus and execution.  Why have these veteran players lost their focus, which then leads to a lack of execution?  Are their pockets so heavy now that they lack incentive to concentrate?  I think that is a fair question.

There are exceptions, of course.  When Ben Revere smashed his face into the wall on Tuesday and dropped a fly ball, he did not show a lack of effort.  He looked towards the fence for a second and lost the ball.  I never see a lack of effort from Revere, as was witnessed during two diving attempts in Wednesday’s game, one of which was a spectacular, highlight reel catch.  He dropped the second one, but clearly put forth maximum effort and focus.

This doesn’t mean other guys aren’t trying.  They just do not try as hard and are not as invested in each individual play.  In short, they are a bit too laid back.  This is a big problem.

Think about your own job.  There are days you give full effort and other days where you do not feel like doing much.  If you work in an office, this probably doesn’t hurt anyone.  But if you have a job where other people depend on you, this is a recipe for disaster.  If I am a surgeon performing my fourth surgery of the day and I feel a bit tired and do just enough to get by with patient #4, bad things can happen.

Baseball is not brain surgery, obviously.  But one person’s actions can affect their teammates and the outcome of the game.  If someone wants to pay me millions of dollars to file papers in an office, you can be assured I am going to be the best, most organized filing machine that ever lived.  And it won’t even matter if anyone else is affected.  I would be singularly motivated by just the fact that someone was willing to pay me top dollar for my services.  I worry that not everyone on this Phillies team feels the same way.  And no amount of practice is going to cure that problem.

 

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Phillies Take First Two in Chicago

After a devastating loss on Wednesday, the Phillies have bounced back in the next series, winning their first 2 games against the Cubs.  Friday’s game was a 7-2 score and today they won 2-0 as Cliff Lee stunned the Cubbies.

Lee was able to lower his horrible 14.40 Opening Day ERA to only 6.00 with this 7 inning effort.  So all is well again with the Phillies ace…yeah!

And the offense is not too shabby to start the season.  Chase Utley is absolutely on fire after a very slow Spring Training.  In the last 2 games, Utley has 5 hits and 4 RBI including 2 home runs.  He also hit his 300th career double today and ended the game just a triple shy of the cycle.

Domonic Brown has also come to life with 4 hits, 2 walks and 3 RBI in these 2 games, plus ZERO strikeouts.  Nada.  That alone tells me he is in the zone.

P7073923Another interesting note is that we are learning some things about the Phillies manager, Ryne Sandberg, early in the season.  First, he is totally in love with Jake Diekman.  Diekman has pitched in 4 out of 5 games so far this season while fellow reliever Brad Lincoln has yet to throw a pitch.  Justin DeFratus has pitched 1 inning and Jeff Manship has thrown exactly 2 pitches total.

Sandberg says he is trying to establish who fits in which spots in the bullpen.  By the way, is that not what Spring Training was for?  Just saying.  And if he is looking for good fits, does this mean those 3 pitchers that have not been or barely been used do not “fit” anywhere?  Hmmmm…

We have also learned that Sandberg is not totally sold on Roberto Hernandez.  In Friday’s game, Hernandez appeared to be cruising in the 6th inning when, after one out was recorded, Sandberg pulled him and put in Diekman.  Hernandez had given up 2 runs in the first 5 innings, but his pitch count was low (73).  That was a weird move.

One last thing I like to mention about today’s game…Jonathan Papelbon saved a game!  Miracles never cease!  Yes, that comment is dripping with sarcasm.  When he saves 3 or 4 in a row with minimal drama, I will curb my smart remarks.  Until then, congrats Pap!  You live to fight another day!

Can the Phillies sweep this series?  Hope so!  Game 3 is Sunday at 2:20pm and A.J. Burnett will pitch.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Perplexing Papelbon Problem

Wednesday night’s Phillies 3-4 loss to the Rangers was the kind that makes you want to scream.  It was a game they had well in hand; very winnable.  Enter the $50 million dollar man, Jonathan Papelbon:

Through 7 innings, starter Kyle Kendrick was great, allowing only 1 run.  Rookie reliver Mario Hollands totally redeemed himself from a very rough outing the previous day by pitching a scoreless, hitless 8th inning.  Papelbon entered the 9th inning with a 3-1 lead that any closer making $50 million dollars, the largest payday ever for a reliever, should be able to preserve.  That did not happen.

Papelbon has lost 3-5mph off his fastball since the signing and has yet to make an adjustment for his lost velocity.  He just keeps flinging the ball up there figuring he’ll get all the swings and misses of days past.  He was severely up in the zone all inning and the Rangers put a beating on him with 4 hits and 2 walks.

The 2nd walk was literally a walk-off win for the Rangers.  The 4th ball of the at-bat was not even anywhere near the strike zone.  How does a veteran pitcher walk home the winning run?  I almost looked like he just said “screw it, I want to go home now” and just threw the ball without even thinking.  This is a big problem.

After the game, here was Papelbon’s take on the loss:

“Obviously, this is a disappointment,” Papelbon said. “I thought Kendrick pitched well enough to deserve that win, and unfortunately the bullpen wasn’t able to preserve it for him. But it’s a long season. I think that’s one of the stronger points of my game is being able to bounce back and not have any memory of the previous game good or bad.”

So he is saying “the bullpen” couldn’t hold the lead?  Try again…the ONLY guy who gave up a run after Kendrick left the game was Papelbon.  The least he could have done was owned it.

And one of the strongest points of his game is a lack of memory?  I guess he likes to take full advantage of this “strong points” by blowing games so he can then utilize his terrible memory to the fullest.

But maybe a bad memory is not so helpful.  Frankly, I think Papelbon needs to remember what he did wrong and try not to do it again.  I know he was speaking more to the mental aspect of the game, but perhaps those words have a deeper meaning than he realizes.  If we do not remember, how can we learn from our mistakes?

Or is that a moot point and Papelbon’s career is to suffer a very expensive and painful end?   Not expensive for him, of course.  But the Phillies have him under contract for at least 2 more seasons, with an automatic vesting option for 2016 if he finishes 15 games in 2015.  That is a scary thought.

Yes, it is only 3 games into the season.  But this issue goes all the way back to last season and Papelbon has still not adjusted his pitching style.  Is he capable of doing so?  Sure, I think so.  But will he?  That is the real question.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Game 2 Questions

Only 2 games into the season, some odd things have happened with the Phillies.  Game 1 was a 14-10 hitting spree win.  And yesterday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers was quite the opposite.  Manager Ryne Sandberg made some very puzzling moves with the line-up and pitching during the game.

First, not all the line-up changes were too weird.  I liked Ryan Howard hitting 5th against a lefty and using Chase Utley as the DH.  But starting Jayson Nix at third instead of Cody Asche the day after he has a career game with 4 runs scored and 3 hits?  That I do not understand.

I get the whole lefty facing a lefty thing and if it were a week or two into the season, then sure, give Asche a break against a lefty.  But the timing of this move in only the second game of the season with Asche having big momentum coming off Monday’s win is confusing.  I do not think it was the right call; but they don’t pay me to make those decisions.

Another decision I would not have made was tossing a rookie pitcher making his major league debut into a tie game in the 9th inning against a very strong lineup.  Poor Mario Hollands had to face Shin-Soo Choo (walk), Elvis Andrus (sac bunt) and Prince freaking Fielder (walk)!  Seriously?  Is there anyone else out there who thought this was a good idea?  Talk about being thrown into the fire…

Sandberg also reused 3 relievers who had pitched the day before while leaving 2 guys in the pen, Justin DeFratus and Brad Lincoln, who have not pitched at all in 2 games.   Lincoln did not have a great spring, but few Phillies did.  And I definitely would have thrown DeFratus out there in the 9th before a rookie who has barely pitched above Double-A ball.

The end result was a frustrating loss in a very winnable game.  Plus it wasted an outstanding effort on the mound by A.J. Burnett who allowed only 1 run over 6 innings.  Is this just growing pains for a new manager or is there some method to this madness I am not seeing?

Sandberg is a Hall of Famer and all around cool guy, so he will be given the benefit of the doubt here.  A win tonight would go a long way for me :o)  Game time is 8:05pm; Kyle Kendrick will pitch.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Opening Day Slug Fest

The Phillies first game of the regular season began with a bang to the tune of 14 runs on 17 hits including 3 homers, one of which was a Grand Slam.  It was a record-setting day on many levels.

First, Phillies ace Cliff Lee allowed 8 earned runs and still got the win.  That is only the 8th time in MLB history that a pitcher gave up 8 runs in at least 5 innings and still won.  It is also only the 3rd time in history that happened on Opening Day.

Then in his first Opening Day start, Cody Asche ended the game just a triple short of the cycle.  With his parents looking on, Asche had a career day with 3 hits, 2 RBI including a solo homer, a walk and 4 runs scored.

But the biggest day record-wise was had by Jimmy Rollins who belted a Grand Slam in the 2nd inning, marking his 200th career homer.  That home run made him only the 19th player in baseball history to have 400 or more doubles, 100 or more triples and 200 or more home runs in a career.  He also tied a record with Cal Ripken Jr. for 14 consecutive Opening Day starts at shortstop with the same team.

Rollins may have had some extra inspiration yesterday as he is on baby-watch.  His wife Johari is expecting their second child any minute now.  Rollins stayed an extra day in Philly in case she went into labor and then joined the team in Texas on Sunday night, one day after the team arrived.

Records aside, many Phillies had big days in this game.  Both Chase Utley and Ben Revere had 3 hits, Marlon Byrd went 2-for-6 with a solo homer and Ryan Howard had 2 hits and a walk.  Maybe the biggest hit of the day, besides the grand slam, was a pinch hit 2-run double in the 5th inning by John Mayberry Jr.  In his first big move of the season, manager Ryne Sandberg had a gut feeling to switch Junior’s; Mayberry Jr. in place of Tony Gwynn Jr.  That double broke a 7-7 tie and propelled the Phillies to the win with some much needed momentum.

While I do not think the Phillies are going to score 14 runs again soon, this was an uplifting start the season.  Enjoy it!  Tonight, A.J. Burnett will make his Phillies debut; game time is 8:05pm.

 

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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

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.

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