Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’

Phillies Take First Two in Chicago

After a devastating loss on Wednesday, the Phillies have bounced back in the next series, winning their first 2 games against the Cubs.  Friday’s game was a 7-2 score and today they won 2-0 as Cliff Lee stunned the Cubbies.

Lee was able to lower his horrible 14.40 Opening Day ERA to only 6.00 with this 7 inning effort.  So all is well again with the Phillies ace…yeah!

And the offense is not too shabby to start the season.  Chase Utley is absolutely on fire after a very slow Spring Training.  In the last 2 games, Utley has 5 hits and 4 RBI including 2 home runs.  He also hit his 300th career double today and ended the game just a triple shy of the cycle.

Domonic Brown has also come to life with 4 hits, 2 walks and 3 RBI in these 2 games, plus ZERO strikeouts.  Nada.  That alone tells me he is in the zone.

P7073923Another interesting note is that we are learning some things about the Phillies manager, Ryne Sandberg, early in the season.  First, he is totally in love with Jake Diekman.  Diekman has pitched in 4 out of 5 games so far this season while fellow reliever Brad Lincoln has yet to throw a pitch.  Justin DeFratus has pitched 1 inning and Jeff Manship has thrown exactly 2 pitches total.

Sandberg says he is trying to establish who fits in which spots in the bullpen.  By the way, is that not what Spring Training was for?  Just saying.  And if he is looking for good fits, does this mean those 3 pitchers that have not been or barely been used do not “fit” anywhere?  Hmmmm…

We have also learned that Sandberg is not totally sold on Roberto Hernandez.  In Friday’s game, Hernandez appeared to be cruising in the 6th inning when, after one out was recorded, Sandberg pulled him and put in Diekman.  Hernandez had given up 2 runs in the first 5 innings, but his pitch count was low (73).  That was a weird move.

One last thing I like to mention about today’s game…Jonathan Papelbon saved a game!  Miracles never cease!  Yes, that comment is dripping with sarcasm.  When he saves 3 or 4 in a row with minimal drama, I will curb my smart remarks.  Until then, congrats Pap!  You live to fight another day!

Can the Phillies sweep this series?  Hope so!  Game 3 is Sunday at 2:20pm and A.J. Burnett will pitch.

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Decisions Loom for Phillies

As Spring Training nears its end, the Phillies have a number of decisions to make. Some will be made a little easier with injuries and illnesses playing a role. Darren Ruf is out 4-6 weeks with a strained oblique and utility infielder Freddy Galvis is sidelined indefinitely with a nasty MRSA infection. MRSA is a drug-resistant staph infection that is very difficult to treat. Hopefully, Galvis will pull through soon.

With just those two injuries, it looked like there would be room after all for both outfielders Tony Gwynn Jr. and Bobby Abreu. But then Abreu sat out yesterday with shoulder soreness. There is no word on how serious it is, but this certainly may affect his chances of making the team. The Phillies have until tomorrow to decide.

They will also have to decide on whether to keep Ronnie Cedeno today as a utlility infielder. With Galvis now out of the picture, his odds are better. But the Phillies also have to consider Cesar Hernandez and Reid Brignac for that spot.

But the real shocker this week so far has been the Phillies decision to outright Kevin Frandsen. He now has to decide whether to go to Triple-A or become a free agent. Frandsen has brought a lot of much needed energy to this team the last several seasons, which were otherwise dull and depressing. He was also the best pinch hitter in the majors last year with 14 pinch hits. It would be a real shame to see him go. But I do not know if many teams are knocking on his door, so free agency may not be a good option for him (or wishful thinking on my part). If he takes the Triple-A option, he could still make the team at some point.

In other news, Cole Hamels says he feels “great.” Is it just me, or have we heard this before? Don’t hold your breath…it will be at least a month before he is ready to go, barring anymore “not great” feelings.

And as an interesting side note, the Phillies have announced new food items for the 2014 season at the ballpark. Hold onto your arteries before you decide to try the new hotdog topped with bacon and melted cheese or the burger with fried egg. My heart aged 10 years just thinking about eating that.

6 days until Opening Day…

UPDATE: Frandsen just opted for free agency.  I am sad :(  He will be sorely missed…best of luck to him!

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

More J-Roll Drama at Phillies Camp

I am sure most of us have heard about the Jimmy Rollins – Ryne Sandberg drama at Spring Training this week. To recap very quickly, J-Roll was being J-Roll and let fly a “Who cares?” when asked about the team’s offense. And then Sandberg let fly a telling, “No comment” when asked about Jimmy bringing positive energy to the club. Rollins was benched for 3 straight days (Mon.-Wed.) without having spoken to Sandberg until Thursday.

Before I offer my thoughts on the situation, I will tell you a little story from Spring Training 2009. I make it a habit to arrive to all games, even Spring Training games, many hours early. That is when some of the most entertaining and interesting things happen. Before one 2009 spring game in Bradenton, FL against the Pirates, I witnessed some real J-Roll being J-Roll behavior.

As the team was stretching on the field, manager Charlie Manual was pacing about, looking annoyed. And one player was noticeably absent from the field: Jimmy Rollins. About 20 minutes into this, Rollins suddenly appeared jogging across the field. When the team noticed him, everyone, mid-stretch, stopped what they were doing and began clapping and cheering for Rollins as he approached. It was group sarcasm, although in good fun, to congratulate Rollins for finally showing up.

As I was right up against the fence where they were stretching, I saw and hear nearly everything that happened next. Manual sauntered over to Rollins with his irritated, head-tilted, almost twitchy swagger that we have seen many time over the years. Usually you saw this when Manual was about to confront an umpire.

As Manual berated Rollins, wagging finger and all, Rollins slouched over like a 5 year old getting yelled at for stealing a cookie. He even pouted. Rollins then made various hand gestures to explain how he got stuck in traffic and then got turned around, etc… A lot veteran players these days don’t like taking the team bus to spring away games, so it was not too unusual that Rollins drove himself. Still, everyone else was on-time.

022509a1Ryan Howard then wandered over and put his arm around Rollins to comfort him, again, like a 5 year old whimpering after being punished. Manual just kept talking. It was very clear that this was not the first time Rollins broke the rules. And as we all know, it would not be the last.

But under Manual, Rollins got used to being “scolded” and then simply going about his business after some comforting words from a few teammates. This has been a decade-long pattern. So does it really surprise anyone that in this most recent incident Sandberg decided to give Rollins the silent treatment? When you were a kid, what was worse? Getting yelled at or being ignored and having to wonder what you did wrong? The silent treatment doesn’t work on everyone; however, I am sure Sandberg felt like at the very least, he needed to try something different than what Manual had done.

I have heard a lot of criticism of Sandberg the last few days for not speaking to Rollins right away. Personally, I think giving Rollins days to stew over what was going on may have an effect going forward. Although Rollins did nearly hang himself in the media afterwards with comments like, “Well, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion. It doesn’t make it right, but he’s the manager so he gets to have the last say.” I am sure that did not endear him to Sandberg at all. But as the new manager, Sandberg is going to have to think outside the box when dealing with player issues, especially with those players who have become used to a very different style of management.

How will J-Roll react now that he and Sandberg have put the issue to rest? Time will tell.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

The Phillies Offense Has Sprung a Leake

In 2012, the Phillies faced Reds pitcher Mike Leake twice and destroyed him to the tune of 13 runs.  He had an overall ERA against the Phils of 17.55.  Ouch.  But last night, this team sprung Leake from his Phillies prison, allowing him to mow them down one hitter after another.

Ah, sweet freedom for Mr. Leake.  He must be quite relieved this morning.

On the exact opposite side, the Phillies probably got little sleep due to nightmares.  Some people have nightmares about standing naked in a crowd.  The Phillies are probably having nightmares about standing at home plate without a bat.  They may as well have been standing there without one if they were never going to use it.

And that pretty much describes this entire 6-game road trip which went down in flames after getting swept in 3-games by the Reds.  They scored only 10 runs in all 6 games and came away with just 2 wins, both against the Marlins.

Granted, it is very, very early in the season.  The Phillies have time to make up ground, however, these are very serious issues.  At some point, one has to question whether or not this team is capable of more.  But we will not really know until we see the whole team together as it was meant to be; that means when Carlos Ruiz returns and we also finally see what Delmon Young has to offer.  Ruiz cannot return due to suspension until April 28th.  And Young is still on the DL, although he has been participating in extended Spring Training games.

To make matters worse, Domonic Brown left the game early with a sore back; he will have an MRI today.  And John Lannan, who got pounded for 6 runs in 1.2 innings last night, complained of a sore knee after the game.  His status is unknown.

Do not be surprised if manager Charlie Manual decides to shake up the line-up tonight against the Cardinals.  And say a prayer that Cole Hamels can get his first win of the season; although, he may need a little offense to get that done.  *Sigh.*

Game time is 7:05pm.

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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography

Hamels Hammered on Opening Day

The Phillies got crushed by the Braves on Monday night in a 5-7 Opening Day loss.  But let us begin with a bit of good news…Chase Utley was amazing.  Utley collected 3 RBI on a homer, single and a triple, coming just a double short of hitting for the cycle.  And that concludes the ‘good news’ portion of the program…

In the bad news category, Cole Hamels faltered once again in his first start of the season.  Hamels has now lost his first start of the season in 5 of his last 7 attempts.  This year was different as he finally got to start on Opening Day, so the expectations were high.  Allowing 5 runs in 5 innings, including 3 home runs, was not exactly what everyone had hoped for.

I blame the facial hair.  Hamels had a full beard and mustache through most of Spring Training.  On Friday afternoon, the hair was still there.  But by Friday evening into Saturday, the beard disappeared.  Finally, by Monday at game time the fuzz was history.

I think all the furry drama threw his game off.  It was truly a hairy situation.

Facial hair aside, not much went right for the Phillies last night.  The offense, mostly Utley, kept trying to bail Hamels out, but the Braves just kept the runs coming.  And then Chad Durbin wound up allowing 2 more runs in relief without recording an out.

The main thing to focus on now is that this is just one game.  It was certainly a hugely disappointing game, but still a drop in the bucket.

The Phillies are off today; the next game with the Braves is Wednesday at 7:10pm.  This will be an interesting one as Roy Halladay makes his first start of the season.  Facing a potent Braves line-up will be a good test of whether Halladay is really ready to go or not.

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Weekend Prelude to Opening Day

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.

And here are the links to my photo albums from the weekend: Friday’s On-Deck Reception and Exhibition Game and Saturday’s Exhibition Game.

Go Phillies!

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Putting All Their Eggs In One Basket

The Phillies have made a few egg-head moves in the last week or so.  First, they released utility infielder Yuniesky Betancourt, who will now reportedly sign with the Brewers.  And now they have released pitcher Aaron Cook, who appeared to be a lock as the unofficial 6th starter in the Phillies rotation.  Cook pitched in 6 spring training games, posting a 3.38 ERA over 18.2 innings.

Last year, Kyle Kendrick fit into this spot nicely, filling in when a starter was needed due to injury.  But Kendrick is #4 in the rotation now.  Cook performed well enough this spring to become the new Kendrick, but apparently a $100,000 bonus was too much for the Phillies to handle.  So instead of paying him, Cook was sent packing.

Granted, Cook did not pitch well in the majors over the past several years.  But neither did John Lannan, who coincidentally gave up 12 runs in his last 4 innings of work this spring.  And Lannan is starter #5.  Cook appeared to be improving and was the Phillies only veteran option to start a game in the event that a started gets injured.

The Phillies have now put all their eggs in one basket, filled with 5 starters, 2 of whom are on shaky ground.  Lannan is an unknown at this point; he has not been consistent this spring.  Even more frightening, Roy Halladay has been awful.  Last season, he pitched injured, and the results certainly showed it.  This spring, Halladay has been sick with a stomach virus, experienced a dead-arm, complained of fatigue and his velocity is way down.

If Halladay cannot get back to pitching like a major-leaguer, this team is in serious trouble.  And with Cook’s release, the only option they have if Halladay goes down is to toss a minor league pitcher into the fire and hope he does not get burned.  With the imminent arrival of the Easter Bunny this weekend and Opening Day on Monday, they had better hope their eggs do not start to crack.

 

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Phillies Spring: As The Tummy Turns…

The 2013 Phillies Spring Training is turning in a soap opera of sorts.  Strange things are afoot.  A recent “trade” report may be the strangest of them all.

According to a tweet from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com and a short note in a MLB.com article, the Phillies have literally given away a solid minor league pitcher to the Angels.  Right-hander Michael Cisco averaged a 1.70 ERA with a combined 13-3 record over his last 2 seasons in the minors.  The 25-year old was sent to Los Angeles without as much as a handshake.  I am confused.

Can anyone out there shed some light on why anyone in their right mind would hand over a guy who could be a future major league pitcher for absolutely nothing in return?  Did they at least get a fruit basket out of it?  Or is this some weird, new baseball Mafia where the Angels will now owe Ruben Amaro Jr. a favor?  I guess he made them an offer they could not refuse.

Or worse, did Cisco do something so morally reprehensible that the Phillies would just cut him loose?  For a team that signed anger-management frequent flyer, Delmon Young, in the offseason, I find this theory to be highly unlikely.

So if none of the above theories hold water, the only remaining option is sheer stupidity.  Either that, or the media did not get the whole story.

And if that story does not make you feel ill, this one will: Roy Halladay went green for St. Patrick’s Day yesterday, and not in a good way.  He turned green on the mound and left after only one inning due to an apparent stomach virus.  All these little bumps in the road for Halladay this spring are beginning to pile up.

It has not been a good spring thus far for Halladay.  He has looked exhausted at times, even without a stomach bug, and his velocity has reportedly dipped.  While slow and steady wins the race, all we are seeing so far is the slow part.

This latest illness appears to be legit as teammate Jonathan Papelbon is reportedly sick as well.  However, Halladay fell ill a number of times in the last few seasons, plus he seems to tire faster, sweat more and turn red in the face pretty often.  And this spring, he has not looked well, even before reports of the stomach issue.  One almost has to wonder if there is more to the story here.

But I am not a doctor, so I will not speculate further.  Let us hope Halladay is well soon and will be ready for the start of the season.  In the meantime, more drama is nearly guaranteed to ensue…stay tuned.

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Are We Seriously Only Halfway Through Spring Training?

Is it just me, or is it taking forever to get to the regular season?  I was excited when Spring Training began, because a little baseball is better than no baseball.  But that excitement has waned slowly and transformed into impatience.  Can we get to the real games already!

There is not much else in Philly to get excited about right now.  The Flyers are good one day, and suck the next.  They are in last place in their division.  And the 76ers are all but out of playoff contention, unless a small miracle occurs.  And no, that miracle will not be Andrew Bynum, who does not appear to have any desire to play this year.  He will sit back and collect his massive paycheck.

Some people are excited about the Papal Conclave in Rome.  I get it.  I was just in Rome this past October; I took the whole 9-mile tour of the Vatican museums, St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel.  It was an ethereal experience for sure.  But unless the smoke coming out of that chapel chimney signals the start of the regular season, I don’t have much to get excited about.

They will pick a new pope.  Some people will celebrate, some will complain and life will go on.  But what I really need is some baseball!

I like Spring Training; it is a necessary part of baseball.  But some things about it annoy me.  Mainly, that it is 6-weeks long, the games don’t count and the fact that I am not in Florida right now.  Ugh.

However, there have been a number of rather interesting incidents this spring.  A Hooter’s ball girl screwed up and fielded a fair ball (not that interesting I guess; this happens every year); Charlie Manuel was accosted by a strange man on a tricycle at a game against the Astros; and several Phillies playing for Team Canada in the WBC brawled with Team Mexico this past Saturday.  Apparently, Pete Orr was thrown out of the game.  Tyson Gillies, who has a habit of finding trouble, body slammed a Red Sox pitcher who was playing for Mexico.  And Phillies Sebastian Valle, who played for Mexico, swung his catcher’s helmet at opposing players, despite their being at least 3 of his Phillies teammates on Canada’s team.  Oops.

So while Spring Training has not been dull, it is just not over yet!  But we are half-way there and everyone, so far, is healthy (cross all fingers and toes)…3 weeks to go!

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Baby Steps to a Rejuvenated Phillies Team

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

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