Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’
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.
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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
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 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!
In what has become an annual tradition, I usually post New Year Resolutions for Phillies fans at about this time. But it seems that as a fan base, most of us do seem to have our act together. As for the 2012 Phillies team, the same cannot be said. They need some serious help.
So this year, I would like to propose a set of New Year Resolutions for the team instead:
Jimmy Rollins – I resolve to stop swinging for the fences and hitting pop-ups. I will stick to line-drives and grounders.
Roy Halladay, Chase Utley & Ryan Howard – We all resolve to be healthy, productive members of this team! No more bum shoulders, ankles or knees!
Kyle Kendrick – I will not mope when I feel disrespected and just keep pitching. I will put on my big-boy pants and wear them all year long.
Carlos Ruiz – My goal is to repeat my 2012 performance, without the performance-enhancing ADHD pills, thereby regaining the respect I lost after getting suspended.
Ben Revere – I resolve to hit my first major league home run in Citizens Bank Park. If Juan Pierre can hit a homer here, then so shall I!
Ruben Amaro Jr. – No matter how tempted I am to save money, I will not sign former Phillies relief pitcher Ugueth Urbina. Yes, he paid his debt to society. However, he did attempt to murder 5 ranch hands by setting them on fire and chopping at them with a machete. Perhaps we should pass on this one.
Domonic Brown – I resolve to reach my full potential this year and prove I belong in the big leagues, preferably by May.
Mike Adams – I resolve to be fully recovered from surgery and return to my All-Star relief-pitcher form in order to be deemed worthy of my giant $12 million contract.
Charlie Manuel – I will go out on top this year! World Series or bust…
I wish you all a safe and happy New Year!
The Phillies Night Before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas, when all over the field,
Not a player was stirring, as the 2012 season had been sealed.
The bats were stacked in the clubhouse with care,
In hopes that a Championship soon would be there.
The Phillies were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of trophies danced in their heads.
And Charlie with his new line-up tucked under his cap,
Had just settled down for a long off-season nap.
When outside of his house, there arose such a clatter,
Charlie sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window he stumbled, half asleep,
Having woke from a nightmare of his bullpen being taken deep.
The moonlight lit up the old ‘08 trophy, causing it to glow,
Giving the illusion of a night game on the grass down below.
When what to his wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh filled with ballplayers in good cheer.
With his General Manager and ace pitchers in tow,
He knew in a moment it must be Ruben Amaro.
More rapid than the trade deadline, forward they all came,
And he grumbled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now, Hamels! Now, Howard! Now, Rollins and Utley!
On, Brown! On, Halladay! On, Papelbon and Lee!
To the top of the National League! To the top of them all!
Now run away! Run away! And play some baseball!”
And then, in a twinkling, Charlie heard, “You The Man!”
From the shouting and cheering of each happy fan.
As he drew in his head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney, Ryan Howard came with a bound.
He was dressed all in pinstripes, from his head to his foot,
Having tossed his old ankle brace, which was tarnished, with ashes and soot.
But he arrived with a smile and Charlie gave him a pat on his back,
Surely the fully healed Achilles would put him right back on track.
Howard spoke many words, and after tightening his shoe lace,
He welcomed Michael Young, who will now man third base.
And with thunderous joy, the fans clapped their hands,
With a few shiny new toys, 2013 is sure to be grand!
Howard then sprang to the sleigh, and to his team gave a call,
“You guys are the best ballplayers of all!”
But Charlie heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
“Happy Holiday’s to all and to all a good night!”
Photoshopping and re-wording by Jenn Zambri Photography
I am guessing that John Lannan and Chase Utley will never be BFF’s, but Lannan signing with the Phillies may at least prompt a truce. In 2007, Lannan threw the pitch that broke Utley’s hand, essentially ending his run for the MVP award that year.
In 5 plus years in the majors with the Nationals, Lannan has hit Phillies’ batter’s 11 times; 3 of those were directed at Utley. I would venture an educated guess that these two guys do not like each other.
Regardless, Lannan is on-board for 1 year and $2.5 million to take the place of Vance Worley, who was traded to the Twins earlier this month. It sounds like a low-risk, high reward situation, as long as Lannan can stop himself from whacking his new teammates with the ball. The temptation may linger until he gets used to his new location.
As for Mike Adams, this sounded like a good signing until I heard the terms. We will get to that in a moment. Adams is a very solid relief pitcher who has a lifetime 2.28 ERA over 8 seasons. However, he is 34 years old and coming off a surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which a rib bone presses against a nerve, causing pain and numbness in the arm.
Does this sound like a guy you would sign to TWO years and $12 million? Not so much. And yet, that is what the Phillies are giving him. While this is not fully in the range of a Freddy Garcia-type disaster (whom the Phillies gave $10 million to in 2007 to do basically nothing), the potential is similar. If Adams does not recover from surgery or comes back as a lesser pitcher, this deal is a huge bust.
But the Phillies are once again rolling the dice and praying for the best case scenario. Let us hope they come out on the winning end this time.
By the way, if you missed my 2012 Phillies Photo Tribute slideshow, here it is again for your entertainment. Enjoy!
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Lannan photo by Nick Wass (AP)
Slideshow photos by Jenn Zambri Photography
Drum roll please….
Here is my annual Phillies Photo Slideshow! The slideshow includes all original photos that I took during the 2012 season; it includes players, coaches, fans, the Phanatic, and more. Enjoy!
Well, at least it was not steroids. Still, the news that the Phillies’ beloved catcher Carlos Ruiz has been suspended 25 games for violating the league’s drug policy does sort of feel like the end of the world may be upon us. Is the Phillies 2013 season already going down in flames? Oh Chooch, say it ain’t so! I am so depressed…
The stimulant Ruiz took was Adderall, which is an amphetamine used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). College students use it to improve focus and stamina. For ADHD, it helps alleviate symptoms and allows patients to behave “normally” (if there is such a thing as normal).
Many major league baseball players are prescribed this type to drug for ADHD and they are granted an exception from MLB. A good example would be our old pal Shane Victorino, who has struggled with ADHD since childhood. He even wrote about it in his book that was released last year, “Shane Victorino: The Flyin’ Hawaiian.”
Another Phillie, Kevin Frandsen, was suspended in 2011 for a different amphetamine, Ritalin, while in the minors. These pills have become more common over the years among athletes looking for a “mental” boost instead of a physical one, like steroids. There is much debate over whether or not amphetamines really offer any serious edge, but Ruiz’s numbers this past year do seem suspicious. He had career highs in many categories including batting average, home runs and slugging percentage.
Know what else is a stimulant? Caffeine. So can players just drink jugs of coffee before games to get a similar effect? And how about energy drinks, like 5-Hour Energy or Monster? While these are not nearly as strong as Adderall, it does raise some interesting questions. Does feeling more “awake” enhance baseball performance? And if so, how much?
There have been a number of studies which can be found in scientific journals, but the results are varied and, therefore, inconclusive. An article at LiveScience.com reviews a journal entry by six scientists from top universities who advocate the use of amphetamines by healthy people. But the review serves to show an opposing view, noting the dangers of drug dependency and side effects. So even scientists cannot seem to agree on the subject.
Whatever the individual opinion on the subject, the end result is the same. There will be no Chooch for the first month of the season. Worse, players are only given a suspension for use of amphetamines after their second failed test. This means Ruiz knew he was to be retested, and still did not stop taking the drug. Chooch, you are killing me, man! What the *%*^@!!??
This is a crippling blow to the Phillies, who are already in a tenuous situation as this team continues to age. The window of opportunity for wins with this core group of players is closing fast. Of course, Erik Kratz will be there to fill in, but with so many questions going into the 2013 season, this is a huge setback. Will Chase Utley be healthy? How about Roy Halladay? Can the team sign a solid outfielder? And the list goes on…
I need a stiff drink right about now. Spring training has not even begun, and I already feel the weight of impending doom upon us. Hey, isn’t the end of the world nearly upon us? December 21, 2012 is less than a month away and, according to the Mayan calendar, we are all as good as gone. Is Chooch the first sign of the apocalypse or do the Phillies just have a black cloud over them in 2012? And could the Angels signing of Ryan Madson, who the Phillies should have gone after this offseason, be apocalypse sign #2? I officially hate the Mayans for prompting this silly discussion.
Let us all hope that 2013 has better luck in store for all of us.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography