Results tagged ‘ Jim Thome ’

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

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

Phillies Sign Wigginton & Victorino Gets His Own Day

Flyin HawaiianMahalo and Happy Shane Victorino Day!  Yes, Governor Neil Abercrombie declared that today is Shane Victorino Day in Hawaii.  And no, you cannot make this stuff up, folks.

Shane tweeted about the event earlier today:  “Just founded out that Hawaii Governor Abercrombie declaring today as Shane Victorino Day in Hawaii! Whoa…honored! #TeamMana”  But what I really want to know is, where was Mr. Fitch today and did he knit a ridiculously expensive sweater for the occassion?

Seriously, congrats to Shane!  The Flyin’ Hawaiian has earned the honor!

Taking a back seat to the Victorino news today was the signing of utility man Ty Wigginton, 34.  The Phillies will pay half of his $4 million salary next year and they expect he will fill in mostly at 3rd and 1st since both Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco had surgery this off-season.

Wigginton has been tossed around MLB like a ping-pong ball.  The Phillies will be his 7th team entering his 11th major league season.  He is a lifetime .265 hitter and batted .242 last season.

The big draw here appears to be his power, but the right-handed Wigginton will probably see limited at-bats so I question that reasoning.  I also question why the Phillies picked up another aging player on the tail end of his career whose batting average has dropped steadily each year since 2008.

With all the talk about this team needing to get younger, I am confused.  We signed a 34-year old who will likely replace 29-year old Michael Martinez on the major league roster.  And this is after signing and severely overpaying for a 31-year old Jonathan Papelbon (to a FIVE year deal) and 41-year old Jim Thome.  Is it just me, or are the Phillies sort of going backwards here?  I understood the addition of Thome, which is good on a number of levels.  But this one?  Not so sure…

Not to mention Wigginton has a nice list of injuries to his credit, including groin strains, oblique strains, a fractured thumb, a broken hand and a sore back.

While Wigginton did not cost much and has value as a versatile player, the Phils already have plenty of versatile, average hitting  bench guys (Wilson Valdez, Martinez, Ben Francisco).  This seems a bit redundant to me.

Anyone else care to share their opinion?  Feel free to comment below.  And please, have a super Happy Shane Victorino Day :O)

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

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

Jim Thome Returns to Philadelphia

The Phillies have decided to begin the 2012 season roster update with a blast from the past.  Jim Thome, who played for the Phillies from 2003-2005, has signed a one-year deal to return to the Phils in 2012.  Stating publically on a number of occasions that Charlie Manuel is like a father to him, it is no surprise that Thome wanted to come back for what may be his final year in baseball.

A future hall of famer with 604 career home runs, Thome was already a fan favorite in Philly.  But at age 41, can he contribute to an already aging line-up?  After spending the last 5 years in the American League, Thome saw little playing time in the field and was mostly a designated hitter.

It is possible the Phillies think he can fill in at first base occasionally as Ryan Howard may not be ready for the start of the season.  But it is more likely he will be a bench player, cheerleader and veteran mentor for younger players.

Although in an odd twist of fate, it would be ironic to see Thome take over first base for Howard (if only temporarily) as Howard is the reason Thome was traded away from the Phillies after the 2005 season.  Howard was an emerging rookie at the time and the Phillies had no use for Thome once Howard was ready to go full time.

Here is a quick trip down memory lane with a few photos I shot of Thome in the 2004 season:

Jim Thome

Thome is an all around great guy and it will be wonderful to see him back in a Phillies uniform.  Perhaps the Phils can begin grooming him for a coaching position?  Just a thought.

An even better thought is that Thome could finally get that World Series ring he is lacking.  But as the 2011 season showed us, anything can happen.

 

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

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

Bullpen Blows Five Run Lead

The Phillies scored only 22 runs in the latter half of May, from the 18th to the 31st.  But in the last 4 games, the Phillies have exploded to the tune of 31 runs.  Today against the Twins, they scored 9 runs, had a 5-run lead in the 8th inning, and still lost the game.

The Phillies hit five home runs in the game.  Here is a recap of the first four: The usual suspects, Ryan Howard and Werth, nailed two of those homers.  Not as common was a blast from Raul Ibanez, who was on base three times.  Even less common was a homer from Wilson Valdez, who had his only other big league homer in 2006.  Yes, 4 years ago.  If Valdez can smack a homer, then the stars must really be aligning for the Phillies, right?  Maybe not…

Cole Hamels got off to a bad start in the first inning, giving up 3 runs.  A passed ball by catcher Brian Schneider and a bad throw to second by Hamels added fuel to the fire.  But the offense immediately picked Hamels back up by getting those 3 runs right back in the bottom of the inning.  Chase Utley led the way with a 2-run triple and Jayson Werth hit a sac fly to score Utley.

Every starter in the game, including Hamels, had at least one hit today.  On the mound, Hamels later allowed a solo home run to Justin Morneau and ended the day with 4 runs allowed over 7 innings.  If you forget about the first inning mishap, Hamels had a great day.

But, as has been a common story line this year, the Phillies bullpen blew a FIVE run lead.  In the 9th inning, former-Phil, Jim Thome hit a 2-run homer off Jose Contreras.  As it was then a save situation, Brad Lidge was brought into the game.  P8248770 Durbin.jpgAnd Lidge proceeded to blow the save and the remaining 3-run lead.  He gave up an RBI-single and a 2-run homer to Twins catcher, Joe Mauer.

With a 9-9 tied game in the bottom of the 9th, the Phils got 2 hits but still failed to score and win the game.  Howard and Werth both struck out.  Chad Durbin came in for the 10th inning and as soon as I saw him on the mound, I thought, “Oh crap, he is going to give up a homer to the first batter.”  Why do I think this?  Because he has done it many times in the exact same situation.  How many times, I do not know except to say that I have nightmares about it.  Sure enough, 1st batter: homer.

The inning ended with a tag out at the plate, which normally would have been very exciting.  But at that point, who cares?  The Phillies are losing 9-10 with the bottom of the batting order coming up.  Do you think Valdez can hit his 3rd homer in 4 years to win the game?  No?  Neither do I…

Valdez did not get a chance.  Greg Dobbs popped out, Schneider grounded out and Ross Gload pinch hit for Valdez.  Now, Gload did a homer with 2 outs to tie the game again.  But again, no need to get excited because Danys Baez was going to pitch the 11th inning.  Baez has been awful and today did not change that.  He gave up THREE runs in the 11th just to make sure the Phillies had NO chance at a win.

The Phillies went down in the 11th.  It was a pathetic end to a pathetic loss.  The final score was 10-13 and the Phils now have one game left against the Twins.  If Roy Halladay can get back on his game after allowing 6 runs in his last outing, the Phils could maybe salvage a series win.  Game time is 1:35pm and I will return with photos.

In other news, Carlos Ruiz will get a few days off after being nailed in the head with a broken bat while behind the plate yesterday.  He will not need a trip to the DL, which is great news.  Scott Mathieson was designated for assignment to make room for catcher Dane Sardinha who will back-up Schneider until Ruiz is healthy.

 

Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*

 

Phillies Take Game 1


The Phillies hopped on board the Chooch Train last night and rode it to a win over the Dodgers; Thumbnail image for P9129082 CR.jpgCarlos Ruiz smashed a 3-run homer in the 5th inning to give the Phillies a lead that they would never relinquish.  Raul Ibanez hit a 3-run shot of his own in the 8th to pad that lead.  That Ibanez guy is not too shabby either.

It was not all sunshine and roses though for the Phillies.  Cole Hamels looked like the pitcher of old for 4 innings but then, after Chooch’s 3-run shot and Ryan Howard’s 2 RBI in the 5th blasted the Phillies to that big 5-1 lead, Hamels began to unravel.   The Cardinal Sin in baseball – to give the other team a boost after you just put a hurting on them. 

Hamels allowed a lead-off double, a single and then appeared to have a double play ball hit to Jimmy Rollins.  The ball got stuck in his glove so the feed to Chase Utley was late and Utley overthrew to first in his haste.  But Hamels still had a 3 run lead and 2 outs.  Instead of focusing on that, he showed up his teammate by throwing his hands up in disgust at Utley, putting his hands on his hips and shaking his head.  Cardinal Sin #2 – showing up your teammate.  Hamels could not concentrate after that and gave away a 2-run homer to Manny Ramirez.

The Phillies got the win, but the gestures and attitude of Hamels is disgusting.  How many times have his teammates bailed him out of bad situations?  And this is the thanks they get?  No double play is ever a sure thing.  Besides, if Hamels had not put two men on base, he would not have been in that situation to begin with.  Utley was not pitching, as near as one can tell; Hamels was.  Hamels should be ashamed for the lack of respect he showed his team.

Ok, let us not dwell…we did win the game :O)  The most pleasant surprise of the night was Chan Ho Park, who in his first relief appearance since 9/16/09 after an injury, came back looking sharp as ever.  He pitched a scoreless, hitless inning and had a lot of movement on his pitches.  Welcome back Chan Ho!

Six relievers were used in all and everyone did their job, except Ryan Madson who had a 4 hit, 2 run 8th inning.  Madson has not looked good this post-season at all and it is beginning to be a real concern.  Luckily, he had a 4 run lead and Brad Lidge was able to close out the game in the 9th with the 2 run lead he was left with.  Lidge seems to have his confidence back, which is good to see, but Madson appears to be going to opposite direction.  He did get Ramirez out to end the 8th, but how reliable is Madson going to be from now forward?

And how about that bad umpiring…again.  The Dodgers decided to pinch run for Jim Thome in the 6th inning, but Randy Wolf was not ready; he did not have his spikes on.  The umpire actually let the Dodgers get away with a delay of several minutes while Wolf changed his shoes in the clubhouse!  JA Happ stood on the mound pacing, waiting for the game to resume.  Sorry ump – BAD call.  You cannot let the other team’s pitcher stiffen up while you wait for someone to change shoes.  If they are not ready to go, too bad for them.  Game on.

Game 2 will kick off this afternoon at 4:07pm with former Dodger, Pedro Martinez facing former Phillie, Vincente Padilla.  This should be another good one!  Go Phillies!!!!

Photo by Jenn

 

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*

 

 

Game On

It is finally Thursday!  Just a few short hours until the Phillies and Dodgers begin the battle for the NLCS title!  The final roster decisions have been made and few were interesting; Chan Ho Park did indeed make the roster and Kyle Kendrick did not, as I thought would happen.  But in a surprise move, Brett Myers was also left off and Eric Bruntlett added.  So, 11 pitchers instead of 12 and 1 more bench player.

Myers was very unhappy with the news, but maybe not entirely shocked.  His one outing in Game 2 of the NLDS did not go well; he walked two batters and hit another.  After to injuries this year, it appears Myers is not able to find his control yet.

As for the starters, it will be Cole Hamels tonight and Pedro Martinez tomorrow…maybe.  Martinez told reporters he has not gotten enough work in and that his BP session was “erratic.”  Either he does not feel ready, or this is some mental game he is playing with the Dodgers.  Whatever the case, it makes you a bit nervous, doesn’t it?

Some other fun notes about this series:

- The Phillies will be facing lots of old Phillies!  Larry Bowa, former player and manager, is the Dodgers 3rd base coach.  Pitchers Randy Wolf and Vincente Padilla are both former Phils as well as slugger, Jim Thome.

- Manny Ramirez used to play for Charlie Manuel in Cleveland and Manuel says he is “like a son” to him.

- Chan Ho Park, Pedro Martinez, Paul Bako and Jayson Werth are all former Dodgers.

- Both teams each have 8 players who were born in 1975 or earlier.  LOTS of experience :O)

- This is the fifth time the Phillies and Dodgers have met in the NLCS; they are split 2-2 lifetime.

- At 21 years old, pitcher Clayton Kershaw is the youngest player on either roster and will start the game for the Dodgers tonight.

Game time is 8:07pm….Get the rally towels going in your living room!PA071279.jpg

Go Phillies!!!!

Photo by Jenn

 

*Read more about the Phillies at my other home page, Phightin’ Phils Phorum in the My Team Rivals network*

 

 

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