Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’

Magic Moments of Phillies Spring Training

The first official Spring Training game for the Phillies will take place on Saturday.  I am excited for baseball!  But there is also a little sadness that I cannot be in Clearwater this year to enjoy the first crack of the bat under the warm Florida sunshine.  If you are lucky enough to be heading south, enjoy it!

Spring Training is a magical moment in time where players are generally happy, relaxed and having a good time.  The fan-friendly atmosphere and nice weather draws big crowds each year.  And while the games are interesting, they really don’t mean much.  The real reason to head to Clearwater is to mingle with other fans, chat with players, get autographs and photos and, most importantly, get a closer look at how major leaguers behave when their guard is down.

You may notice a lot of smiles, laughter and silly hijinks.  To demonstrate, and also to get you in the Spring Training frame of mind, here are some of my favorite photos and moments from years past in Clearwater:

First up, the normally quiet and reserved Chase Utley laughs out loud and on another occasion, poses and smiles for me:

Jimmy Rollins waves hello and later attempts to play golf with his bat and ball:

Phillies alum Mike Schmidt has some fun with Reggie Jackson; Charlie Manuel jokes around with his players:

Remember Fan Fest?  For some reason, the Phillies have cancelled this annual tradition of meeting players and getting autographs.  But it was amazing while it lasted.  Here are Chad Durbin and Kyle Kendrick signing and posing for me:

I attended a few Team USA games while in Clearwater.  The most memorable moment was watching Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter of the Yankees field balls side-by-side during warm-ups.  The second photo is Chooch, Carlos Ruiz, making an odd face at batting practice:

Here we have the Big Man, Ryan Howard, yucking it up on the field and later doing his impersonation of an airplane (or maybe he was just playing 1st base?):

And finally, just me and my camera hanging out by the field before batting practice.  You can see how close fans can get to the field:

Are you ready to pack your bags yet?  Wishing I was….sigh.  Maybe next year :O)

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Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

An Emotional Offseason

A recent Sports Illustrated article graded the Phillies offseason moves a “D.”  They summarized it by saying, “Though the trade for Revere gives the Phillies a cost-controlled centerfielder to grow on, they’ve taken steps backward with most of their other moves, and are more likely to repeat last year’s middling showing than contend in a division where the Nationals and Braves have upgraded in impressive fashion.

Ouch.

This assessment, however, may or may not be totally off-base.  I decided to rank some of these moves for myself using not grades, but my emotions about each event.  Roger Ebert once said, “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”  Let’s see if he is correct:

Happy: The trade for centerfielder Ben Revere.  He is cheap, young and has room for improvement.  My instinct says he will be a pleasant surprise.

Nostalgic Joy: Re-signing RHP Chad Durbin.  Durbin is a solid human being and he had a great 2012 with the Braves.  Plus he helped the Phillies collect their 2008 World Series championship.

Cautiously Optimistic: Signing Michael Young to play third base.  Young seems like another solid human being with a true passion for the game.  The question is whether or not he can still play defense.  I feel that a guy with this much experience and motivation should be able to work it out.

Conflicted: Adding Chase Utley-hater and lefty John Lannan to the starting rotation.  Obviously with the departure of Vance Worley, the Phillies needed a starter.  Lannan is cheap, but how well he will perform and his attitude are, at least for me, big question marks.

Confused: Signing outfielder Delmon Young.  This guy is a problem child who is also still recovering from offseason ankle surgery.  His defense is awful and he has been, not without cause, labeled an anti-Semite with a bad temper.  I get the low-risk, high reward school of thought here.  What I do not get is why the Phillies would rather mess around with this guy than finally give Domonic Brown a full-time shot at one of the corner outfield spots.

Nervously Nauseous: I am just a wee bit sick to my tummy about the 2-year, $12 million deal the Phillies gave to RHP Mike Adams to be the 8th inning guy.  I like Adams if he is healthy.  However, he is recovering from thoracic outlet surgery.  This is the same surgery that Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals had and his career looks like it may be over.  That is a little scary.

Utter Disappointment: Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension for using a banned substance.  He did not use steroids, which is a relief.  But still, getting caught with ADHD meds when he was forewarned about it after a previously positive test is very disappointing.  He knew he’d probably get caught again and did it anyway.  *Sigh.*

Sad: Losing Vance Worley in the Ben Revere trade.  I wish him luck in Minnesota!

Indifferent:  Everything else.  A lot of minor moves were made, mostly involving minor league deals and guys past their prime.  Unless someone makes a real impact in camp, I cannot imagine there will be much to say about these miscellaneous people.

And my final emotion of the day…

Elation!  Spring Training starts tomorrow!

 

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Phillies Spring Training TV Schedule

Spring Training is days away!  If you cannot make it down to Clearwater to see the Phillies in action, tune in to one of the games or other programs below:

DATE TIME GAME NETWORK
Saturday, February 23 1 p.m. vs. Astros The Comcast Network
Monday, February 25 1 p.m. vs. Tigers The Comcast Network
Tuesday, February 26 1 p.m. vs. Yankees The Comcast Network
Thursday, February 28 1 p.m. vs. Braves The Comcast Network
Sunday, March 3 1 p.m. vs. Blue Jays Comcast SportsNet
Tuesday, March 5 1 p.m. World Baseball Classic Comcast SportsNet
Wednesday, March 6 1 p.m. vs. Nationals The Comcast Network
Thursday, March 7 1 p.m. vs. Twins The Comcast Network
Saturday, March 9 1 p.m. at Rays MyPHL
Tuesday, March 12 1 p.m. vs. Tigers The Comcast Network
Thursday, March 14 1 p.m. vs. Pirates The Comcast Network
Sunday, March 17 1 p.m. vs. Orioles Comcast SportsNet
Monday, March 18 1:05 p.m. at Atlanta ESPN
Tuesday, March 19 1 p.m. vs. Yankees The Comcast Network/ESPN
Friday, March 22 1 p.m. vs. Braves The Comcast Network
Sunday, March 24 1 p.m. vs. Red Sox MyPHL
Tuesday, March 26 1 p.m. vs. Rays The Comcast Network
Wednesday, March 27 1:05 p.m. at Tigers ESPN
Thursday, March 28 1 p.m. vs. Blue Jays The Comcast Network
Friday, March 29 7 p.m. vs. Blue Jays The Comcast Network
Saturday, March 30 1 p.m. vs. Blue Jays MyPHL

Comcast SportsNet will also be airing the following Spring Training shows:

Phillies Focus: Sunday’s at 10:30pm from 2/17/13 – 3/31/13.

Daily News Live, Live from Clearwater, FL: Weekday’s at 5:00pm beginning on 2/11/13.

 

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Welcome Back, Chad Durbin!

Please excuse the following outburst of unbridled enthusiasm for a move that many may view as not very exciting:  The Phillies have signed our old friend Chad Durbin!!!!  Whoo hoo!!!!  Durbin was a big part of the 2008 World Championship team; he spent the last 2 years with the Indians and the Braves.

Durbin adds much needed depth and maturity to the Phillies bullpen.  In his first stint with the Phillies, he was known as the intellectual of the bullpen group.  He has a great personality and is extremely fan-friendly, as well.  Durbin was one of my personal favorites for those reasons and I am glad he is back!

Durbin, 35, did very well with the Braves last year, pitching in 76 games with a 3.10 ERA.  His new contract with the Phillies is for 1 year with an option for a second year.

The Phillies also signed a utility infielder this week to a minor league deal.  Yuniesky Betancourt, who turns 31 in a few days, will join the team for Spring Training.  He hit .223 with the Royals last year, but was designated for assignment in August when the team manager, Ned Yost, became unhappy with his attitude.  “Yuni did a great job for us. But he was a guy that wanted more playing time, and he would get upset when he didn’t,” Yost said.

So add Betancourt to the Phillies list of problem children headed to camp next month.  If nothing else, Spring Training looks a lot more entertaining now!

 

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Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography

Phillies Add More Pitching & Hamels Gets an Unpleasant Surprise

The Phillies have added three right handed pitchers;  Juan Cruz, Aaron Cook and Rodrigo Lopez.  They have each been asked to attend Spring Training as non-roster invitees on minor league contracts.

You may remember Lopez (photo to the right); he started 5 games for the Phillies in 2009.  He spent the last 2 years with the Cubs and in the minors.  Lopez, 37, has a career 4.82 ERA in the majors and compiled a 5.28 ERA in the minors last year over 18 games.

Cook and Cruz are both 34 years old.  Cook posted a 5.65 ERA in 18 starts with the Red Sox last year and will get $1.625 million if he makes the roster.  Cruz was with the Pirates in 2012 and went 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in 43 games.

The combined age of all three pitchers is 105.  Clearly, these signings were not meant to help the team get any younger.  These are just more spare parts in case Cole Hamels breaks a finger nail or Roy Halladay’s arm falls off.

Hamels is already having a rough off-season.  In October, the star pitcher apparently had a sore shoulder, which the Phillies have since downplayed as being nothing serious.

And more recently, Hamels found out that the Philadelphia school system flat out lied to him in regards to donations he and his wife made to 3 Philly schools that are now slated for closure.  They were assured these schools would remain open.  The Hamels Foundation is now trying to save those schools so that the playgrounds and library they helped build do not get torn down and turned into apartment complexes or the like.

At least Spring Training is almost here…26 days to go!

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Photo 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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Grieving the Phillies 2011 Season – Stage 4: Depression

Has anyone been watching the World Series?  I have not been able to.  Not because my TV blew up or squirrels chewed through my cable lines, but because it is just too depressing.  The 2011 World Series without the Phillies?  *SIGH* :O(

The only thing I think about right now is that there are approximately 124 days, 2,996 hours, 179,761 minutes and 10,785,690 seconds left until players report to Spring Training.  That means I have ahead of me approximately 124 days, 2,996 hours, 179,761 minutes and 10,785,690 seconds of sheer boredom and misery.

Sad Phillies

I know, I should really get a grip.  Perhaps join a 12-step program?  But I simply cannot fathom what those 12-steps might be that would be able to lift me out of this funk.

To make matters worse, there are many impending decisions on the horizon that will greatly impact the future of this Phillies team.  There are seven free agents the Phils have to make decisions on: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez, Brian Schneider and Ross Gload.

My thoughts are that the options on Lidge and Oswalt’s contracts will not be picked up nor will either player be resigned.  Neither lived up to expectations this year and injuries were a huge problem.

Madson’s agent is Scott Boras.  That being said, the Phillies will not be able to afford to resign him.  Plus, rumor has it that Madson’s wife hates Philadelphia.  He is gone.

As for the other four, Gload and Ibanez likely will not be back.  This team needs to get younger and healthier.  The Phils will probably resign Schneider at a discount as his offensive numbers are exactly that – offensive.  And Rollins will hopefully return after some intense negotiations.

And all of that is also depressing.  This team we have all come to know and love will be broken apart with holes likely to be filled with some new faces.  Change is necessary here, especially after the final results of this season with the team ousted way earlier than expected.  But that does not make it less sad :O(

I am currently in the process of peeling myself out of this dark, hopeless abyss where I am blubbering uncontrollably while cowering in a corner.  This disappointing season has been difficult to cope with, but we must all make a commitment to try.

Although, if trying includes watching the Rangers and Cardinals, I may pass for now.  It is just too demoralizing  right now :O( 

Stay tuned for Stage 5…

 

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Player photos by Jenn Zambri Photography

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

The Final Decisions Before Opening Day

After a few additions and subtractions, the Phillies Opening Day roster is set.

#

Pitchers

#

Infielders

55

Danys Baez

6

Ryan Howard

58

Antonio Bastardo

19

Michael Martinez

56

Joe Blanton

60

Pete Orr

52

Jose Contreras

27

Placido Polanco

34

Roy Halladay

11

Jimmy Rollins

35

Cole Hamels

21

Wilson Valdez

57

David Herndon

#

Outfielders

38

Kyle Kendrick

10

Ben Francisco

33

Cliff Lee

7

Ross Gload

46

Ryan Madson

29

Raul Ibanez

44

Roy Oswalt

15

John Mayberry

16

J.C. Romero

8

Shane Victorino

#

Catchers

#

Catchers

51

Carlos Ruiz

23

Brian Schneider

 

Most notable, Luis Castillo was released yesterday.  After showing up two days late for a very short try-out, the odds of him making the team seemed slim.  And although he did get on base quite a bit, the players already in camp were just as good and much better defensively.

So Wilson Valdez will start at second base in place of Chase Utley with Michael Martinez (photo), who also made the roster, helping out.  Pete Orr, who smashed a triple and showed off his speed on the base path yesterday, also made the roster.  Delwyn Young was sent to the minors.

As for the bullpen, the injury to Brad Lidge’s shoulder left a spot open which will be filled by David Herndon who beat out Michael Stutes for the last roster spot.  Jose Contreras will close for Lidge, who may be out until May or June.

Yesterday’s final exhibition game was a tad sleepy, but having players wandering around the ballpark was neat.  Here is hoping the Phillies make this a new, year-round tradition for the On-Deck series in the future.

Here is the PHOTO ALBUM from the 3/30/11 On-Deck game with the Pirates.

Chase Utley Speaks…Sort Of

A man of little words, Chase Utley has always preferred to do his talking with a bat.  But this season, the bat will remain silent as Utley attempts to recover from a potentially long-term injury.

Utley’s chronic knee pain has been found to be the result of patellar tendinitis, bone inflammation and chondromalacia.  And that does not just sound scary, it is scary.

Hesitant to speak about the issue, Utley has dodged reporters all through spring training.  Luckily, he did not need to depend on the knee to do the dodging.

But when he did finally speak, very little was made any clearer.  Utley referred to making “some progress” but still has no time table for a return.  And when asked which doctors he had seen, Utley’s response was, “ If I tell you I have to kill you.”

While that dry sense of humor is charming, it brings him no closer to a solution.  Surgery seems to risky and may actually do more harm than good.  Odds are that Utley will return at some point and likely struggle through the season in some pain.


Mystery Utley.jpgAnd so Utley remains a bit mysterious.  Incidentally, the word “mysterious” is defined as “Difficult or impossible to understand, explain, or identify; Having an atmosphere of strangeness or secrecy.”  Yup, that about sums it up.

As for the rest of the team, they are on their way back to Philly to play two exhibition games Tuesday and Wednesday before Opening Day on Friday.  Questions still linger about the Phillies.  Will Luis Castillo make the team?  Who will be in the bullpen?  And will Jenn absolutely freak out when the full reality of Utley’s absence hits her on Friday?  Stay tuned…

 

Photoshopping 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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