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.
Despite a superb spring, Yuniesky Betancourt has been released. In his contract, March 24th was designated as the deadline for the Phillies to either keep him on the big league roster or let him go. They chose to let him go even after Betancourt hit .447 with 14 RBI with 3 doubles and a home run in 47 at-bats.
This means that both Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen will make the team as utility infielders. I am a little confused by this move, but not in the way you may be thinking. I like Frandsen; while there is no guarantee he will have a solid year like he did in 2012, he has paid his dues and earned a spot on the team.
Galvis still has options and therefore, could have started the year in Triple-A and worked on his offense where he will get many more at-bats. If Betancourt did not work out, they could have released him and then brought up Galvis. That would have given the Phillies more options. As it stands now, they are walking across a very tight rope with little room for error.
And then there is the big question mark lingering in the air that no one seems to want to discuss. Galvis was suspended 50 games last year for using performance-enhancing drugs. Of course, like every player who tests positive, Galvis denies using PED’s. But what if he were to test positive again? Betancourt is gone and the options for the Phillies are now very limited.
I certainly hope nothing of the sort would happen, but think about Carlos Ruiz. No one saw that one coming either. Ruiz made the same mistake twice and so it follows that Galvis could fall into the same trap, as could anyone else for that matter. You also have to wonder how each will perform without the use of PED’s.
I will not be popular for pointing this out, but it had to be said. Galvis seems like a nice kid with a boat-load of talent and he can play multiple positions. I think he will be a big contributor to the team. So I am not saying letting Betancourt go in favor of Galvis was necessarily a terrible idea; in fact, I am glad I did not have to make that decision as it had to be a very tough one. But Betancourt would have given the Phillies more wiggle room.
A Ruf Life
Speaking of not being popular, this one will not earn me any new friends either. I think the Phillies should trade Darin Ruf. Now, hear me out before you freak.
I was really rooting for Ruf this Spring, but it became obvious that he is not an outfielder. The Phillies sent him back to Triple-A to work on it, but I have to say that it just does not look like he will ever be ready to play left field. Just look at him; he is built like a first baseman, or if he played football, a linebacker. Ruf does not have the body-type to run down balls in the outfield. He can improve, but to what extent?
First base is clearly where he belongs, however, Ryan Howard is not going away anytime soon. And Ruf’s value will not be much higher than it is right now, which is why this is the time to trade him when the Phillies will get the most in return.
If the outfield does not pan out for Ruf, what do you do with him? Ruf will be 27 years old in July; the clock is ticking…
Boom Goes The 3-4 Combo
In consecutive Spring Training games, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have hit back-to-back homers. With the rate these two are hitting, is anyone else getting nervous? I mean, we do not want them to run out of bullets before the season even starts, right? Both Utley and Howard have gotten a ton of playing time this spring. Perhaps it is time to stop pushing their luck and rest them before anyone gets hurt or worn out?
It is extremely uplifting to see Utley and Howard back in action and, more importantly, healthy! So this is nervous excitement talking here, but pretty please, can we just give it a break until Opening Day? Dear Phillies, please do not wear out this wonderful 3-4 combo before April 1st. Thank you in advance.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
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.
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!
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
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)
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
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.”
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!
Spring Training is days away! If you cannot make it down to Clearwater to see the Phillies in action, tune in to one of the games or other programs below:
|Saturday, February 23||1 p.m.||vs. Astros||The Comcast Network|
|Monday, February 25||1 p.m.||vs. Tigers||The Comcast Network|
|Tuesday, February 26||1 p.m.||vs. Yankees||The Comcast Network|
|Thursday, February 28||1 p.m.||vs. Braves||The Comcast Network|
|Sunday, March 3||1 p.m.||vs. Blue Jays||Comcast SportsNet|
|Tuesday, March 5||1 p.m.||World Baseball Classic||Comcast SportsNet|
|Wednesday, March 6||1 p.m.||vs. Nationals||The Comcast Network|
|Thursday, March 7||1 p.m.||vs. Twins||The Comcast Network|
|Saturday, March 9||1 p.m.||at Rays||MyPHL|
|Tuesday, March 12||1 p.m.||vs. Tigers||The Comcast Network|
|Thursday, March 14||1 p.m.||vs. Pirates||The Comcast Network|
|Sunday, March 17||1 p.m.||vs. Orioles||Comcast SportsNet|
|Monday, March 18||1:05 p.m.||at Atlanta||ESPN|
|Tuesday, March 19||1 p.m.||vs. Yankees||The Comcast Network/ESPN|
|Friday, March 22||1 p.m.||vs. Braves||The Comcast Network|
|Sunday, March 24||1 p.m.||vs. Red Sox||MyPHL|
|Tuesday, March 26||1 p.m.||vs. Rays||The Comcast Network|
|Wednesday, March 27||1:05 p.m.||at Tigers||ESPN|
|Thursday, March 28||1 p.m.||vs. Blue Jays||The Comcast Network|
|Friday, March 29||7 p.m.||vs. Blue Jays||The Comcast Network|
|Saturday, March 30||1 p.m.||vs. Blue Jays||MyPHL|
Comcast SportsNet will also be airing the following Spring Training shows:
Phillies Focus: Sunday’s at 10:30pm from 2/17/13 – 3/31/13.
Daily News Live, Live from Clearwater, FL: Weekday’s at 5:00pm beginning on 2/11/13.
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Please excuse the following outburst of unbridled enthusiasm for a move that many may view as not very exciting: The Phillies have signed our old friend Chad Durbin!!!! Whoo hoo!!!! Durbin was a big part of the 2008 World Championship team; he spent the last 2 years with the Indians and the Braves.
Durbin adds much needed depth and maturity to the Phillies bullpen. In his first stint with the Phillies, he was known as the intellectual of the bullpen group. He has a great personality and is extremely fan-friendly, as well. Durbin was one of my personal favorites for those reasons and I am glad he is back!
Durbin, 35, did very well with the Braves last year, pitching in 76 games with a 3.10 ERA. His new contract with the Phillies is for 1 year with an option for a second year.
The Phillies also signed a utility infielder this week to a minor league deal. Yuniesky Betancourt, who turns 31 in a few days, will join the team for Spring Training. He hit .223 with the Royals last year, but was designated for assignment in August when the team manager, Ned Yost, became unhappy with his attitude. “Yuni did a great job for us. But he was a guy that wanted more playing time, and he would get upset when he didn’t,” Yost said.
So add Betancourt to the Phillies list of problem children headed to camp next month. If nothing else, Spring Training looks a lot more entertaining now!
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
The signing of Delmon Young on a $750,000, one-year contract just got weirder, if that is possible. An initial look at Young’s problems included a 2012 arrest for a brawl involving Anti-Semitic remarks, the pummeling of a minor league umpire with his bat, terrible defense and an inconsistent bat. Let us now add to that list two items: Young’s weight and dog poop.
Yes, dog poop. Apparently, part of his community service for the 2012 arrest includes cleaning up doo-doo at a community park. Also of note, Young does not like soupy poop:
“I didn’t like cleaning up dog poop,” Young said inside the Phillies clubhouse. “It was a dog park and people don’t clean up after their dogs sometimes and we’re left to. A lot of times, I just stared at it, because it was too soupy. But that put some perspective on things, too.”
This is a man who has actually spent time staring at dog poop. Now let that sink in for a moment and see the picture develop in your brain…
While that thought marinates and comes to a slow, sad simmer, let us examine the next oddity in this signing. Young’s contract has been set up so that he can earn an additional $2.75 million in bonuses. $600,000 of that involves him getting on a scale and meeting a goal weight.
Young will receive $100,000 each time he makes weight. If someone offered me that deal, I would be anorexic by now.
That aside, I am actually beginning to feel sorry for this guy. Think about the endless jokes we can all make about this. Then picture Young walking sadly past a box of donuts in the clubhouse, carrying a poop scoop on his way to the dog park, while singing a melancholy version of Hava Nagila and wearing an “I Love Umpires” pin on his lapel. I don’t know about you, but I am really depressed now.
In fact, this entire off-season has seemed like a long, tortuous, binge-induced hangover. Seriously, my head hurts. All these strange and questionable roster moves, the thought of poor Domonic Brown sulking over the Phillies apparent disinterest towards him, the looming injury questions, Chooch cheating…all this and more is making slightly insane.
Is it Spring Training yet? If I am going to be tortured by all these uncertainties, at least once the season begins, I will get a bigger glimpse of what is to come. In the meantime, pass the donuts.
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography