Results tagged ‘ Dontrelle Willis ’

What’s Up With Willis & Where’s Utley?

After yesterday’s 4-run, partial inning disaster and reports of a sore arm, it is looking like the Dontrelle Willis experiment may come to a quick end.  It is a real shame though.  Willis had a spectacular career during his first four years in the majors.  But the 5 years that followed that were horrendous and Willis wound up spending a lot of time in the minors trying to get his groove back.

It would have been nice to see Willis finally succeed again for a number of reasons.  First, the Phillies can always use a solid lefty in the pen.  Second, he and Jimmy Rollins are good friends and he would have fit well in the clubhouse.  And finally, just because he seems like a cool guy who deserved another shot.

This is not to say he is officially done; spring training is not even half done yet.  But if you combine his first two performances with the new report of a sore arm, it does seem very unlikely that Willis will rebound in time to make the team.

And what is up with Chase Utley?  I understand based on his prior knee issues that manager Charlie Manual does not want to push him.  But he has done little more in spring training than take batting practice and has yet to appear in a game.  I get the idea of working him in slowly, but not working him in at all is leaving many questions lingering in the air.

Is there more to the situation than the Phillies are letting on?  Even Placido Polanco, who is also older and even had surgery in the off-season, has played a game this spring. In fact, Polanco is in the line-up today, but still no Utley.

It is understandable that the Phils want to be cautious with Utley after he missed nearly half the season in 2011.  But is this going overboard or is there something they are not telling us?  Stay tuned…

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Spring Officially Kicks off with 3-Straight Phillies-Yankees Games

In the 1st of 3 games against the Yankees to start Spring Training, the Phillies dropped the game by a score of 8-5.  Cole Hamels started the game and tossed 2 innings, allowing 1 run.

The Yankees and their fans were salivating as Hamels pitched because Hamels could be a free agent after this year.  Hopefully, the Phillies will handle that issue before it comes down to a financial slug-fest with the Yanks.  Because we all know who wins that particular battle…

The first recorded RBI of spring came off the bat of Raul Ibanez…in a Yankees uniform.  The Phils will miss Ibanez’s personality in the clubhouse, but it was time to part and get a little younger in the outfield.  I wish Raul the best!

When watching early spring games, it can be hard to judge a players performance.  The games do not count, so wins and losses are just a meaningless statistic.  Veteran players are the most difficult to judge as they will use spring to get in shape and work on their technique.  So if a guys like Hamels, for example, gives up 5 runs, it does not mean much.  Maybe he is working on his grip, his delivery or trying out something new.  Spring is the time for veterans to  pace themselves, avoid injury and work out the kinks.

What you should really be looking at are the young guys and the players fighting for a roster spot.  This year, the Phillies have a number of battles brewing.  Both the bullpen and the bench have spots ready for the taking.

In the pen, watch for Dontrelle Willis, Justin DeFratus, Phillppe Aumont and Michael Schwimer, among others, to be vying for a spot on the big club.  Now, unlike the veterans, these are the guys who need to bring it every time they are out there.  It is all about who makes the biggest impression.

Willis pitched 1 inning yesterday and gave up a run on two hits.  Willis showed signs of the pitcher he used to be, but then also left his fastball up in the zone way too many times.  And there are plenty of younger guys standing by to try to knock him off.

As for the bench, Michael Martinez, who was here last year, now has a lot more competition to deal with.  Other utility guys like Scott Podsednik and Juan Pierre will be trying to make the team as well.  Podsednik is especially intriguing as he hit .304 and .297 in 2009 and 2010.  But he missed the 2011 season with a foot injury.  If he does well this spring and stays healthy, he has a shot to make the team as an extra outfielder.

This should be a very entertaining spring.

Game 2 with the Yankees today starts at 1:05pm today where we get our first look of the year at Roy Halladay in action!

 

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Questions That Loom Over the Phillies 2012 Season

A new year is upon us and a new Phillies season is almost here, with Spring Training to begin in just over a month.  A few off-season signings have solidified some areas, where other areas may still be of concern.  Here is my list of Phillies looming questions by position:

The Starting Rotation - The projected starters and order are Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Vance Worley.  Halladay and Lee are no brainers.  Hamels is recovering from elbow surgery but reports are that he is throwing and feeling fine.

This means the two questions remaining are Blanton and Worley.  Blanton sat out most of 2011 with a bum elbow and chose not to have surgery this offseason.  How he will respond in 2012 is a mystery.  However, Kyle Kendrick will be waiting in the wings to fill in should Big Joe go down.

And the question for Worley is simply, will he suffer the sophomore slump or pick up where he left off in 2011.  Either way, the Vanimal will be fascinating to watch.

Catcher -  Carlos Ruiz returns as Batman with Brian Schneider backing him up as Robin.  Choooooch!  No questions here.

1st Base – The sight of Ryan Howard tumbling to the ground in agony to end the Phillies 2011 season still burns in our collective memories.  Beat-writer Todd Zolecki reports that Howard is recovering well from Achilles surgery and is now beginning a light exercise program.

Still, Howard will miss some time.  Experts predict that John Mayberry Jr. will pick up most of the time at 1st with an occasional appearance from Jim Thome.  This seems like a terrible shame for Mayberry who should simply be handed left field and allowed to get comfortable there for the long haul.  Instead, the Phillies will probably platoon Laynce Nix in left with someone like Scott Podsednik.

My suggestion?  Give Nix a shot at 1st base and leave Mayberry in left.  Nix has played 1st before and with some work in Spring Training, he could work his way into the role easily.  Of course, I have no real say in the matter.

2nd Base – Can Chase Utley start and end a whole season at 2nd with his health intact?  We shall see…

Shortstop – Jimmy Rollins returns with a fresh 3-year deal.  The question here is that same as that of the other Phillies aging players…can he stay healthy?

3rd Base – I hate to beat a dead horse, but can Placido Polanco stay healthy at  36 years of age, coming off sports hernia surgery?  We hope so.  Polly’s contract is up after 2012, so who will be our 3rd baseman in 2013?

My suggestion?  Glad you asked.  Have minor league prospect Freddy Galvis spend the year working on a move from SS to 3rd.  Galvis is almost major league ready but out of options with J-Roll resigned at SS for 3 years.  Either Galvis becomes trade bait or he finds another way to be useful to the Phils.

Outfield -  As I mentioned before, Mayberry should be the left fielder but it may wind up being Nix until Howard gets healthy.  At least center and right are set: Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence will both be back and ready to play.

The Bullpen – Once again, the Phillies pen is a huge question mark.  The Phils saw rookies and younger, less experienced players, like Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo, rise and fall throughout 2011.  The status of veteran Jose Contreras is mostly unknown since having elbow surgery.  Other veterans, like Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson are gone (for now).  However, neither Lidge or Madson have found homes.  Could they return?  It’s a long shot….but not impossible.

Spring Training is going to be huge in determining the make-up of this bullpen.  There will be a lot of opportunities for younger guys to step up and steal a spot.  It will also be interesting to see if Dontrelle Willis can conjure up some of his early career magic or if he will slide back into oblivion.

And of course, the closer question was answered with the signing of Jonathan Papelbon.  The only question here is will Papelbon play up to his huge salary?

The Bench – Both Thome and Wilson Valdez are set.  The rest of the bench could consist of any number of new signings or guys like Michael Martinez and Pete Orr.  Again, Spring Training should be very interesting.

FYI - Totally off topic, if anyone has noticed some of my photos and albums mysteriously gone missing, this is due to an unexpected issue with the site I was using to store them.  I am in the process of getting it all loaded to a new site and will be working on updating older blogs as I am able to.  For now, all 2011 albums are back up and can be found under my 2007 – 2011 Photo Archives.  Thank you for your patience while I get everything back up and running :O)

I would like to thank all of my loyal readers for stopping by and helping to make Phillies Phollowers the #1 Phillies Fan MLBlog for the 4th straight year.  Among all team MLBlogs, I ranked #10 in 2011.

Many thanks to everyone in the MLBlogs community and congrats to all the leaders!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

J-Roll Rides The D-Train Right Back to Philly

The wait is finally over and Jimmy Rollins has finally re-signed with the Phillies.  The 3-year, $33 million deal is said to have a 4th year option which should be fairly attainable.  Both Rollins and the Phillies seem pleased with the outcome.  Rollins had wanted 5 years, but that was likely just a matter of him bidding high to ensure at least a 3-year deal.

Rollins shared the joy on his twitter account today:

The signing come right on the heels of the D-Train, Dontrelle Willis, agreeing to a 1-year deal with the Phils.  Rollins and Willis are old friends who attended the same high school and whose mom’s are also friends.

A former starter and former Rookie of the Year in 2003, Willis’ career has run way off the tracks in recent years.  But he may be useful as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen for very little cash.  Philly seems like a good place for a comeback, but how that unfolds is yet to be seen.

I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall when J-Roll learned that Willis got a contract before he did.  It may have gone something like, “What you talkin’ ’bout Willis?”  Only here, Willis is Gary Coleman and J-Roll is Todd Bridges.  Think of it as a 70′s reverse time warp.

Either way, both players are probably thrilled to finally be on the same side.

Earlier this off-season, I made some predictions on how the free-agent period would play out for the Phillies.  Let’s see how I did:

I said that both J-Roll and Brian Schneider would re-sign.  Check.

Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge would not have their options picked up and neither would resign.  Check.

And I predicted that Ryan Madson, Raul Ibanez and Ross Gload would also not re-sign.  Check.

That makes me 7 for 7.  Check.  Did you expect any less? ;o)

Technically, anything can happen between now and spring training, but I am fairly certain the Phillies are done making moves.  How about you?  Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments :O)

 

 

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*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

 

Another UnbeLEEvable Month for Cliff Lee

In the month of August, Cliff Lee has been amazingLEE, wonderfuLEE and happiLEE spectacular on the mound.  Lee nearly duplicated his equally stunning month of June, where he went 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA.  He ended August tonight with the same record of 5-0 and a 0.45 ERA.

Against the Reds on Wednesday night, Lee was dominant, as usual.  Over 8.2 innings, Lee allowed only six hits plus one walk and a hit batter in the 9th.  In short, he was magical.
 

The Phillies offense was a bit sluggish against an old foe in Dontrelle Willis, who pitched for the Marlins during his better days.  Since then, Willis has struggled to find a solid place in the majors.  But the Reds gave him another shot and he appears to be trying to take advantage of that.  He allowed some runs, but was pretty good overall.

After Willis walked the first two batters he faced, the Phillies scored one run on a Ryan Howard force out in the 1st.  Later in the sixth, Hunter Pence took Willis deep for a 2-0 Phillies lead.  Shane Victorino scored in the seventh on another ground ball out, this time from Chase Utley.

So while the offense scored only three runs, that appeared to be all Lee needed.  The defense backed Lee as well, although some of the outs they recorded were rather unorthodox.

For example, in the 5th, Wilson Valdez started to turn what looked like a great double play.  He fed the ball to Utley, but Utley fired to first way over the head of Howard.  As the ball ricocheted off the wall beyond 1st, Carlos Ruiz snagged the ball and fired back to Utley, who tagged out the runner going to second on the overthrow.  Ruiz saved Utley from the error and turned a very odd double play.

In the 9th inning, Lee finally ran into trouble after a hit, a walk and then a hit batter.  The hit batter was questionable as Miguel Cairo clearly leaned into the pitch.  And unfortunately, that prevented Lee from recording his sixth shut-out of the year as he was pulled in favor of Ryan Madson.  But Madson took care of the Reds with only three pitches to end the game.

With the 3-0 win, Cliff Lee has now recorded two months without a loss and at least five wins with an ERA under 1.00.  That feat has only been accomplished two times before.

The win also guarantees another series win for the Phillies who have taken the first three games in this four game series.  Vance Worley will pitch in the finale tomorrow; game time is 12:35pm.

 

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Lee Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the MTR Media network*

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