Results tagged ‘ Joe Blanton ’

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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The Phillies 2012 Roster is Announced

The Phillies have announced their Opening Day roster, which includes 12 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and five outfielders:

Pitchers (starters in BOLD): Right-handers Joe Blanton, Roy Halladay, David Herndon, Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Papelbon, Chad Qualls, Michael Stutes and Vance Worley, and left-handers Antonio Bastardo, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Joe Savery.

Catchers: Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider.

Infielders: Freddy Galvis, Pete Orr, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Jim Thome and Ty Wigginton.

Outfielders: John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix, Hunter Pence, Juan Pierre and Shane Victorino.

The only surprise here is probably Joe Savery.  The shock is not really that he made the team after a very sold spring, but that he made it to the majors at all after a rollercoaster minor league career.  Savery, a former first-round draft pick, looked like his pitching career was over before it started as his ERA ballooned to well over 4.00 in 2008 and went steadily downhill through 2010.

That offseason, Savery was converted to a hitter instead where he initially had amazing success.  Then after 9 months of not tossing a pitch, Savery was promoted to AA Reading and AAA Lehigh Valley where they decided he should become a relief pitcher.

No one knows how it happened or why, but suddenly, Savery could pitch again.  He finished 2011 in the minors with a 1.50 ERA in 25 games as a reliever.  And this spring, Savery pitched well enough to earn a roster spot.  The only question now is, how long will this run last once players start coming off the DL?  It appears that will up to Savery.  Best of luck to him!

 

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

 

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

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

Award Season: Which Phillies Made the Grade So Far

Despite an early exit from the playoffs, the Phillies 102 regular season wins and stellar individual performances have earned some players much deserved honors.

Earlier this offseason, Placido Polanco was awarded a Gold Glove for his work at third base.  Polly also won the award playing second base for the Tigers in 2007 and 2009.  He and Darin Erstad are now the only two players in big league history to win a Gold Glove at multiple positions.

MLB.com also handed out awards on Monday.   Ryan Howard was named the club’s Player of the Year, while right-hander Roy Halladay was chosen the team’s Pitcher of the Year.  And rookie right-hander Vance Worley was voted the Breakout Player of the Year.

Not to be outdone, the Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America put its two cents in as well.  Center-fielder Shane Victorino was the winner of the Mike Schmidt Award  for Most Valuable Player and left-hander Cliff Lee received the Steve Carlton Award for Most Valuable pitcher.

The big awards come out next week which will include Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year and the Cy Young award.  It is expect that many Phillies will be considered for these top honors, but realistically, none of them will win.  Charlie Manuel is overlooked every year in the manager category; Worley will probably lose out to Freddie Freeman.  As for the Cy Young, both Halladay and Lee will probably get passed over in favor of Clayton Kershaw who had 21 wins and an almost invisible 2.28 ERA.

Of course, anything can happen.  But those are my predictions…how about you?  Leave your best guess in the comments and we will see who gets it right.

And if anyone missed it, here is my annual Phillies Photo Tribute slideshow.  Enjoy!

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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*

2011 Phillies Photo Tribute

I just finished my yearly Phillies photo tribute!  I shot all of these photos during the 2011 season which include game photos, every player who was on the big league roster (even if for only a split second), a few alumni shots and other goodies.

The “For Fun” section is my favorite.  I collect funny shots throughout the year, like players with the giggles, guys sticking out their tongues, silly faces and lots more.  Do not worry, they are all family friendly.  The really fun ones I keep to myself ;o)

Enjoy!

 

 

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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*

Roster in Place, the Phillies Are Ready for the NLDS

Game 1 of the NLDS is scheduled for a 5:07 start tonight.  Here is the post-season roster for the Phillies:

  • Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider.
  • Infielders (6): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez.
  • Outfielders (6): Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, John Mayberry Jr., Ben Francisco and Ross Gload.
  • Pitchers (11): Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes, Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton.
  • Extras: Infielder Pete Orr and Catcher Erik Kratz will travel with the team. RHP Justin De Fratus, LHP Joe Savery and outfielder Domonic Brown will work out in Clearwater, FL and Outfielders John Bowker and Brandon Moss and RHP Michael Schwimer have been sent home.

The only slightly interesting move here is that Blanton was chosen for the roster instead of David Herndon, despite missing most of the season with injuries.  The Phillies chose experience over a younger guy, even though Herndon was with the team most of the year.

As for the pitching match-ups in the series, here are the probable starters for the Phillies and Cardinals:

  • Game 1: Roy Halladay vs. Kyle Lohse (ex-Phillie)
  • Game 2: Cliff Lee vs. Chris Carpenter (on 3 days rest)
  • Game 3: Cole Hamels vs. Jaime Garcia

These are some odd moves by Tony LaRussa.  It will either turn out to be genius, or a huge mistake.  The Phillies should be able to handle Lohse and will then get Carpenter on short rest.  That is another situation they can probably take advantage of.

The pitcher the Phils have the most trouble with is Garcia, who was pushed back to Game 3 because his home numbers are much better than his road numbers.

This all seems to add up to a Phillies advantage, however, that remains to be seen.  Also of note, Game 2 has been pushed back to 8:37pm (ugh) on Sunday due to the Yankees – Tigers rain postponement.

I also wanted to share with you an article I just read about how Danys Baez has helped Antonio Bastardo out of his recent pitching funk.  Baez was released by the Phillies in July and was not picked up by another team.  He has been sitting at home in Miami watching and noticed Bastardo, a player he previously mentored, was having problems.  He reached out to Bastardo and helped him find the issues in his mechanics.

Bastardo has bounced back since then and it seems that Baez is the reason.  The story made me a little sad, thinking about how much criticism Baez took while he was in Philly from fans and media.  For him to swallow his pride and reach out to an ex-teammate like that is a sign of true character.  He may not have been the bullpen solution the Phillies hoped for, but he gets huge brownie points in my book for just being a great guy.

Hope to see you all at the game tonight!  Go Phillies!

 

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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*

One Huge Error, Two More Losses as Phils Drop 8th Straight

Game one of today’s doubleheader against the Mets was highlighted by a superb performance from Cole Hamels, more crappy offense and a failure of basic math skills.  Hamels went seven strong innings, allowing just a solo homer.  Sadly, the homer was hit by Val Pascucci who had not hit a long ball since 2004.  Pascucci spent 2008 spring training with the Phillies.

The Phillies offense sucked again against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.  I am not sure what the R.A. stands for, but I am going with “Really Annoying.”  Mr. Annoying had a no-hitter going into the 7th inning when Shane Victorino finally ended the humiliation with a double.

Before that, the only base runner for the Phillies was Carlos Ruiz who worked a walk in the 6th, although the home plate umpire tried really hard not to allow it.  On ball 4, Ruiz trotted to first as ump John Hirschbeck called him back, swearing it was only ball 3.  Everyone else in the ballpark had apparently passed 1st grade math and knew it was ball 4.  The umps actually had to hold a meeting to convince Hirschbeck that he sucked at basic math.  It was yet another shiny, happy moment for MLB umpires everywhere.

Moving on, Ryan Howard played in his first game since having a cortisone shot in his left ankle.  He singled in that same inning to score Victorino, which was the only offense in the game for the Phillies.  Howard also made a sliding grab on a foul ball where his right foot smashed into the wall along the first base line.  The right foot…not the left…whew!

After that little adventure, Brad Lidge gave up the go-ahead run to the Mets in the 8th, spoiling the day for Hamels.  The Phillies took a 2-1 loss for their seventh straight.  This team is giving me a headache.

But why stop there?  More sucky baseball was yet to follow.  In game 2 of the doubleheader, Joe Blanton pitched two good innings to start off, giving the false illusion that the Phillies might actually have a shot to win a game.

David Herndon quickly tried to stomp on all our hopes of a positive evening when he put two runners on base in the 3rd.  However, a long fly ball with two outs looked liked the savior of the inning.  But Hunter Pence put a quick end to that silly dream as he dropped the ball and two runs scored.

Pence was already having a bad day in his first start since being rested with knee issues.  In the first inning, he hit into a double play with no outs and the bases loaded.  The Phillies did not score.

As the 3rd inning disaster continued, Herndon walked another batter and Kyle Kendrick had to be brought in.  Kendrick did little to help the situation, giving up two straight hits and 3 more runs.  The total for the inning was 5 unearned runs gift wrapped for the Mets.  And all that happened right after the Phils offense scratched and clawed for 3 runs combined in the 2nd and 3rd innings.

Kendrick, not having sucked badly enough, gave up one more run in the 4th, making those 3 Phillies runs seem totally useless.  The 6-3 lead handed to the Mets would stick for the final score as the offense basically gave up after that horrid 3rd inning.

The Phillies have now lost 8 straight since clinching the division title.  But these games don’t count, right?  Some fans says, no worries, it does not count.  Other say that bad baseball can become a habit, which will be heard to break going into the playoffs.  So, after sucking pretty badly this past week, can the Phillies just flip the switch come playoff time next Saturday?  There are four regular season games left, so I guess only time will tell.

 

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Howard photo by Jenn Zambri Photography; Happy Bunny by Jim Benton

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

Happy Hangover Hampers Hamels & Phils

After Saturday night’s NL East title celebration, both the Phillies and the fans came out a little sluggish on Sunday against the Cardinals.  The crowd was quiet and so were the Phillies bats.  After the late night champagne shower, everyone looked a little hung over.

A few bad pitches from Cole Hamels put the Phillies into an early 2-0 hole when Albert Pujols smacked a 2-run homer in the first inning.  Hamels seemed to bounce back quickly after that, but the offense did nothing to help him.  Then in the sixth inning, Hamels gave up another 2-run homer.

With only eight hits in the game, all of them singles, the Phillies did not have too many opportunities to score.  But the few times they did have runners on base, they hit into double plays.  Hunter Pence, Raul Ibanez and Ross Gload all hit into double plays, ending any possible offensive threat.

Three of the Phillies’ eight hits came off the bat of Chase Utley, which was one positive in the game.  Utley has struggled to find his swing again since getting hit in the head with a pitch.  That sort of shot would scramble anyone’s brain.  But it appears that Utley has found all his marbles and got his timing back at the plate.
 

Down 4-0, the Cardinals padded their lead in the eighth with a solo shot off pitcher Joe Blanton.  It was Blanton’s second appearance since coming off the DL and one he is sure to want to forget.

On the other hand, Justin DeFratus made his major league debut which was almost spoiled by Lance Berkman.  DeFratus’ first pitch was destroyed by Berkman, but the ball landed in Shane Victorino’s glove inches from the center field fence.  DeFratus managed to escape the inning without allowing a hit.

Slightly more exciting than the actual game was batting practice, where I spotted all of the newest members of the Phillies:

And even more exciting than that was the community mural painting which I participated in.  The new Phillies Mural will be eight stories high, facing the Schuylkill River.  It should be done by next summer.  In the meantime, the Phillies are allowing fans to help paint with large chunks of the mural drawn out in pencil like a paint-by-number.  Here I am painting part of the Phanatic:

Game 4 with the Cardinals starts tonight at 7:05pm.  And here is the full Photo Album from the game, including pre-game ceremonies.

 

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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*

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