Results tagged ‘ Hunter Pence ’

Friday the 13th Phillies Nightmare

When one of your ace pitchers gives up 3 runs in the first inning, you know it is going to be a bad day.  Add to that having the Mets in town, the 3rd anniversary of Harry Kalas’ death and the fact that it is Friday the 13th and things look pretty grimm.

Not that Cliff Lee pitched too badly.  He made a few mistakes and the Mets lowered the ax.  Making matters worse, the Phillies knuckleballing nemesis R.A. Dickey was pitching for the Mets.  Although, the Phillies did collect 11 hits; they just failed to score.

The one happy moment in the game came when rookie Freddy Galvis smashed his first major league home run.  Grinning in the dugout afterwards as the team gave him the silent treatment, Freddy did not have to wait too long for some congratulations.  Jim Thome strained to keep a straight face and was eventually the first to give Galvis a bear hug.

But after that, the nightmare continued for the Phillies.  On his 29th birthday, Hunter Pence received the gift of going 0-for-4.  And although Jimmy Rollins had 3 hits, he made a huge defensive blunder in the 9th inning, bobbling an easy double-play ball.  Rollins did not recover and both runners were safe.  That mistake led to another run for the Mets.

The Mets had their share of goofs as well.  Daniel Murphy collected a fielding error and catcher Josh Thole did something I have never seen before.  In the 2nd inning after hitting a single, Thole ran to 2nd on a Dickey sacrifice bunt.  Then unexpectedly, Thole, who was safe at 2nd, began trotting back to 1st base as if the bunt never happened!

Before Thole realized his stupidity, the Phillies tagged him out on his way back to 1st.  This will be a classic for the MLB blooper reel.  Maybe Thole was trying to make the record books with an unprecedented “reverse steal?”  Whatever the reason, he does win the award for dumbest baseball play ever.

But even that bit of entertainment cannot soften the blow of a sad 5-2 loss to the lowly Mets.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day.  Better than that, tomorrow is NOT Friday the 13th.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Blanton’s Hillbilly Handfishin’ Snares Marlins

A player’s entrance music selection says a lot about their personality.  Joe Blanton’s choice is “Hillbilly Deluxe” by Brooks & Dunn.  Tonight against the Marlins, Blanton used his Hillbilly-style to reel in the Fish.

Having nearly a year off with a sore elbow, the rest seems to have done Blanton some good.  He has zip on his fastball and is throwing it wherever and whenever he wants like there is not a care in the world.  If he can stay healthy, Blanton could be a huge boost for the Phillies this year.

The one run he gave up kept the team in position to win.  He was helped out by solo home runs from Shane Victorino and Ty Wiggington.  And a single from John Mayberry Jr. knocked in Hunter Pence who had another multi-hit game tonight.

Rookie Freddy Galvis looks sharper at second base every day and tonight, he was very good.  Despite an error in the 6th inning, Galvis made a lot of other really tough plays.  It is hard to believe he never played second base before this spring.  Galvis also had a bunt single in the 7th.

The 3-1 win tonight gave the Phillies a series win over the Marlins, 2 games to 1.  And this weekend, the Mets come to town.  Friday night’s game time is 7:05pm.

 

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

Welcome Back, Phillies Offense

It was so nice of the Phillies offense to stop by Citizens Bank Park for a visit on Wednesday night.  I do hope they stay awhile.

After scoring only 8 runs in their first 4 games of the season combined, it was very encouraging to see the Phils pick up 7 more last night.  And there is never a better time to start swinging the bats than when Roy Halladay is on the mound.

Through 7 innings, the Doc allowed just one run in his typical, filet-the-fish style against the MarlinsChad Qualls and Mike Stutes  finished off the win for Halladay in the 8th and 9th.

But this is what we expect from Halladay.  What we have not been able to anticipate, going all the way back to last season, is whether or not the Phillies offense would decide to show up.  But in the 3rd inning, the Phils finally found a pitcher they could hit.  Oddly enough, that wound up being Marlins ace Josh Johnson.

The 11 hits Johnson suffered from the Phillies was a career high.  5 Phillies had multi-hits game with Hunter Pence leading the pack with 3 hits and an RBI.  But the big RBI star of the night was a rookie.  With only the second hit of his career, and to the chants of “Freddy!  Freddy!” from the crowd, Freddy Galvis smashed a 2-run double.

Galvis’ first career hit this past Monday was also a 2-run double.  So he is now 2-for-2 in 2 run, 2 base hits.  If the only hits he gets all year are 2-run doubles, that would be ok by me…as long as he does it at least once a game, of course ;o)

The big question now is, will the Phillies offense return again tonight against Mark Buehrle or was this one game just a freak accident?  Game time is 7:05pm.

 

 

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

The Phillies Offense: Here We Go Again…??

The Phillies anorexic offense has gotten off to a seriously slim start during the first two games of 2012.  After a 1-0 win in the opener against the Pirates, the Phillies again scored only one run in Game #2 through 10 innings.

The only run starter Cliff Lee allowed was on a rare wild pitch in the 6th inning.  Lee looked a little uncomfortable most of the game, however, he managed to hold his ground.

But while Lee clawed his way through the Pirates line-up, the Phillies offense was mostly absent.  Hunter Pence collected the lone RBI with a single in the first inning to score Shane Victorino.

Throughout the game though, you could not help but expect to see that “magic” moment occur to get the Phils over the hump.  Freddy Galvis is still waiting for his first major league hit; wouldn’t it be great if that happened at a key moment to put the Phillies ahead?  And Jim Thome stepped in as a pinch hitter late in the game; you thought, surely our old friend can conjure something special in his 1st official at-bat as a Phillie again.

But sadly, the magic never appeared.  And so on to extra innings they went…

Joe Blanton, who started Monday’s exhibition game, was called on in the 10th and immediately got into trouble.  He gave up a double to Phillie-killer Rod Barajas that missed going over the outfield wall by about an inch.  And just a few batters later, a single knocked in the winning run.

While it is only two games into the season, these two games are still cause for concern.  Not panic…just worrisome.  Because this is essentially a carry-over from last year where the Phillies offense regularly stunk up the ballpark.

In addition, having 3 ace pitchers will do them no good if they need those 3 guys to toss a shut-out every time.  That whole pitching staff has to thinking already, “Oh no, here we go again…”  And many fans are thinking the exact same thing right now.

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Back in Philly; Back in Action

The Phillies returned home to play the 1st of 2 exhibition games on Monday night in preparation for Opening Day on Thursday.  I had a very nice seat 22 rows behind home plate, but sadly, my camera died a few weeks ago.  So I apologize in advance for the crappy photos I took with an old camera while the good one is getting repaired.

Joe Blanton started the game and actually looked pretty good.  His fastball had some zip which made his change-up effective.  He actually had a no-hitter going through 3 1/3 innings.  That may not seem like much, but considering he missed most of last season with a bum elbow, this is serious improvement.  The Red Phanatic agreed:

During the game, we saw some old faces, like Placido Polanco who appears healthy, Hunter Pence and Jimmy Rollins:

And there were many new faces, like Juan Pierre and Ty Wiggington.  Pierre looked good at the top of the line-up with a double and a stolen base.

But the big moment of the evening was Jim Thome’s first at-bat in his return to Citizen’s Bank Park.  He received a hearty ovation although he played it cool.

Before the game, I wandered the stadium looking for the “mystery” player sightings that were promised.  I found Juan Pierre playing a running game with some kids, John Mayberry Jr. signing autographs at the kids play area and David Herndon serving soda.

None of the players I ran into would sign autographs according to their body guards/escorts.  When I got home, I saw other guys on TV who did sign, like Cole Hamels and Charlie Manuel.  Hey Phillies…what’s up with that?  Even more annoying, Pierre was standing alone waiting to get in that running game when NO ONE except me recognized him…being the ONLY person to ask for an autograph, you’d think they would have let him do it for ONE person.  Same with Herndon…only one there…no autographs.

So thank God for Ricky Botallico!  The former Phillies closer not only signed autographs (for a LOT of people) but he asked me to take a photo with him!  That’s right…I did not ask.  He did.  I cannot remember the last time I saw any current or former player volunteer for a photo.  He made my day…Ricky, you are the best!

Here is the rest of my Photo Album from the game.  I hope to have a real camera again soon!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Too Soon to See Some Offense? Maybe Not…

Yesterday, Phillies beat writer David Murphy declared that is was “CMGPOATOD…Charlie Manuel Gets Pissed Off At The Offense Day.”  Apparently, the 4-4 game against the Tigers is what set off the usually good-natured Chuck.

Over the years, it has become painfully obvious that this team is not performing up to par on offense.  But it is still Spring Training, so why all the fuss?  I guess when you see non-roster invitees out slugging your regulars, even in spring training, this is not a good thing.

Stats matter very little in the spring.  However, the large gap in production between certain players can say a lot.  Also remember that the hitters are facing sub-par pitching for the most part, as the experienced pitchers are working out the kinks.

When you think of it that way, the lack of offense is a little worrisome.  The chart below shows hitting stats for Phillies players with at least 10 at-bats so far this spring.  Notice that the top hitters include mostly non-roster invitees…and Hunter Pence.

If Pence, the Phillies starting right fielder, can make the effort, then why can’t the other starters and regulars follow suit?  This deviation is probably sending Manuel the message that there is a lack of effort here.

Neither the games nor the stats count, which promotes a more relaxed approach.  But isn’t this relaxed period the best time to work on your hitting, rather than in the high pressure situation of a regular season game?  And that is exactly why Charlie wants to see more from his team this spring.

Go get em’, Charlie!

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Spring Has Sprung: Phillies 2012 Edition

The start of spring training is always an exciting time.  It means a new year, new players and another shot at the World Championship.  For me, the day pitcher’s and catcher’s report does not exactly conjure the urge to cheer out loud; it is more a feeling of relief.  It is time to exhale…

Because all winter long, I have been holding my breath waiting for spring to arrive and it is finally here!  Winter is the worst season for baseball addicts.  You can try to distract yourself with the holidays, football, hockey and hoops, but it is just not the same.  And there are so many down days and so much time to fill.

Now, like a child on Christmas morning, we all feel the anticipation of the new season upon us.  Just as excited must be Roy Halladay, who arrived to spring training in style.  This appears to be a 1932 Ford Roadster; the photo was tweeted by Matt Gelb:

As spring training rolls forward, here are a few things to keep your eyes out for:

Who’s on First? – After Achilles surgery, Ryan Howard will be out of the line-up until at least May, probably longer.  Will John Mayberry take over?  Or, will he start in left and leave 1st base to new Phillies Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton?  My preference is the latter.

What’s on Second? – The “who” here is Chase Utley.  The “what” is what shape will he be in after nursing a bum knee throughout the 2011 season.

Juggling of the Bullpen – There are some significant changes to the pen this year starting with new closer Jonathan Papelbon.  But that role is set, so what about the rest of the pen?  What role will Kyle Kendrick fill?  Will Dontrelle Willis be a real contributor?  And can Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes move past the awful ending to an otherwise solid 2011 season?   Add Chad Qualls and a possible return from Jose Contreras and this has the makings of a huge soap opera.

The Infirmary – One of the biggest question marks on an aging team is can they stay healthy?  Many players had off-season surgery including Cole Hamels, Placido Polanco, Hunter Pence and, of course, Ryan HowardJimmy Rollins has only played around 1/2 of the last two seasons due to injuries.  And this year, he has a brand new contract, making his continued health a real priority.

The Contract SituationCole Hamels is on board for the year.  But unless the Phillies ink a long-term deal with him this spring, they are likely to lose him in free agency next year.  The question is, how much of a distraction will this be?  Personally, I think the Phillies need to cut a deal now and be done with it.

Luckily, this year fans will have more opportunities to see these dramas play out thanks to expanded TV coverage of spring training.  Comcast has published a list of all 14 games that will be aired plus many news and social media events.  This is the first time EVER that you can see every Phillies spring training game without travelling to Clearwater.

Of course, I would rather be in Florida.  However, this is a great alternative.  With the early March games being aired, you can see a lot of young guys and prospects play that without the TV coverage, you normally would not.  In prior years, those players were already sent back to the minors by the time games began to air.

Changing the subject to a more personal note, many of you who follow my blog regularly know that I generally post new content frequently.  However, this off-season has been a tough one for me.  It seems like life keeps tossing me curve balls.  I have been quite ill all off-season.  Then a short time ago, my cat of 15 years passed away in my arms.  I had to have surgery just 6 days after that happened and am still recovering with another surgery on the horizon.

I will live, but it has been a rough go for a while here.  So I thank you all for continuing to follow my silly little blog :O)  I hope to be back on track with regular postings and some fun photos real soon.  And what could be a better cure for that which ails me than baseball?

Thank goodness, Spring Training has sprung!

 

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More Off-Season Moves for the Phillies

Over the past several weeks, the Phillies have made a number of off-season moves.  Some of them make sense, some of them make a bit less sense.  The following is a breakdown of the various Phillies events, the reasoning behind it and my opinion as to the real reason for the move.

Event: The Phillies send Wilson Valdez to the Reds in exchange for a minor league pitcher.

Reason: One can only assume that the Phillies wanted to add pitching depth.

The Real Reason: Having a great back-up for Jimmy Rollins is unnecessary since J-Roll is superman and cannot possibly get injured again, right?  Also, Ryan Madson needed the company of an old teammate for his transition to the Reds.

Event: Brad Lidge, left unsigned by the Phillies, goes to the Nationals on a one-year, $1 million deal.

Reason: Lidge was told he was not in the Phillies’ future plans and that was the extent of the explanation he received.

The Real Reason: Lidge has lost the speed on his fastball and is almost guaranteed to get hurt multiple times based on his past track record.  Also, after the awful 2011 season Jayson Werth had with the Nationals, Lidge can now provide him with moral support.  The Phillies like to take care of their former players ;o)

Event: Hunter Pence received a $10.4 million, one-year deal for 2012.

Reason: To avoid arbitration.  Pence is the final arbitration-eligible player therefore, no hearings for the Phils this year.

The Real Reason: Had the Phillies allowed this to go to arbitration, they would have gotten spanked by Pence and probably would have been forced to pay him more.  But the real reason for the contract is simple; a happy Pence means more “Let’s Go Eat!” T-Shirt money for the Phils.

Event: The Phillies have torn out the grass on the field and are putting down brand new sod.

Reason: The Winter Classic torn up the field pretty bad.

The Real Reason: While the stated reason is valid, there is another underlying reason as well.  Having raised ticket prices yet again, the Phillies now have more money than God and they need to justify that by spending a boat load of cash.  Last year it was a new Phantavision screen; this year is a new field.  Maybe next year they can hire more employees so the concession lines will be less than an hour wait time?  Nah…dream on people.

Event: The Phillies sign former Padre, Chad Qualls to a one-year, $1.15 million contract.  Qualls is a 33-year old right-handed reliever who posted a 6-8 record with a 3.51 ERA in 2011.

Reason: Ruben Amaro Jr.’s favorite saying – Low-risk, high reward.  In other words, if he sucks, they did not pay much for him.

The Real Reason: Because we really miss Chad Durbin and this was the best right-handed Chad they could find.

Event: Pat Burrell has decided to retire.  Amaro is “considering” a 1-day contract so he can retire as a Phillie.

Reason: Burrell retired due to a nagging foot injury.  Amaro is “considering” the 1-day contract because Burrell deserves a proper send-off.

The Real Reason: The foot injury may have played a role, but really, no one was going to sign Burrell.  He has passed his expiration date.  And the only reason Amaro hesitates to make a decision here is because he is afraid that Burrell’s dog Elvis will pee on his brand new field.

Phillies Continue to Crank the Money Machine

The amount of money the Phillies have cranked out over the past several years is pretty astonishing.  It is especially shocking for fans like me who previously lived thought decades of penny-pinching squalor and a grand tradition of losing.  I definitely prefer the shopping spree…

This week, the Phillies dropped another $15 million to avoid arbitration for the 2012 season with lefty Cole Hamels.  Some may be annoyed that a long-term deal was not struck.  However, the $15 million may just be a little grease for the money machine wheel leading up to a more lucrative, long-term deal in the near future.  Call it a gesture of goodwill to Hamels, letting him in on their forthcoming intentions.

A few more Phillies each got a smaller piece of the pie this week.  Utility man and part-time relief pitcher extraordinaire Wilson Valdez pocketed $930,000, the biggest paycheck of his 6-year career.  But seriously, they could not cough up the remaining $70,000 to give the guy a cool million?

Even Kyle Kendrick got $3.585 million to avoid arbitration and Valdez might be the better pitcher…  Okay, I am kidding.  Maybe Hamels can buy Valdez a BMW instead….

The only player left who is arbitration eligible is right fielder Hunter Pence who is looking for $11.8 million while the Phillies are aiming for $9 million.  This one may go to a hearing.   Maybe Pence is just not making as much money as he had hoped off his “Let’s Go Eat” proverb?  I don’t know about you, but I could eat a LOT with $9 million…

And as you all probably know by now, former Phillies reliever Ryan Madson finally signed a 1-year deal with the Reds worth about $8.5 million.  Rumor has it that the Phillies offered Madson at least a 3-year deal worth about $30 million, which he and super-agent Scott Boras apparently turned down.  What he got stuck with instead is an insult.  I would totally fire Boras if I were Madson…

In other random Phillies news, pitcher Joel Pinero, 33, has been signed to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.  In 2011 for the Angels, Pinero went 7-7 with a 5.13 ERA.  Lifetime, he is 104-93 with a 4.41 ERA in 12 seasons.  It is unlikely that Pinero will contribute with the possible exception of making Kendrick and Joe Blanton a little nervous.

 

 

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Hamels 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

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