Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’
Those who were hoping for an Opening Day miracle in the form of a healthy Chase Utley are going to be sorely disappointed. The signing of veteran second baseman, Luis Castillo, to a minor league deal means that Utley may be down for a long time.
This move seems like the Phillies are taking out the Mets trash in the hope of turning it into treasure. But Castillo was just released from the Mets for poor performance and a poor attitude. The move cost the Mets $6 million to eat Castillo’s contract. With that in mind, they must have wanted him gone very badly.
Once upon a time, Castillo was a very good player. But this 35-year old is coming off a season where he hit only .235 with 17 RBI and played just 86 games due to injuries.
And guess what body part gives Castillo the most issues? His legs, more specifically knees, ankles and feet, have been trouble for Castillo for many years now. So the Phillies are trying to replace a second baseman with a bad knee with another second baseman with a bad knee?
There are at least four guys already in camp with the Phillies who can replace Utley temporarily. This includes Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez, Josh Barfield and Pete Orr. All have hit well, especially Valdez who is batting .419 in 43 at-bats.
But the Castillo contract is low-risk as the Phillies have to pay him less only $414,000 if he makes the 25-man roster. However, can they accurately assess Castillo’s play with only nine games to go?
This move stinks of desperation from a team that has maxed out its payroll. And it also does not bode well for the present or future of Utley.
Clearly, the knee issue is much worse than anticipated. And the fact that surgery has not been done yet is an even bigger red flag. If the Phillies are so worried that surgery could make matters worse, then Utley’s future, even beyond 2011, is a huge question mark too.
Hang on, Phillies fans. This is going to be a very long and very strange trip through the 2011 season.
Photo by Eric Kilby, Wikimedia Commons
The list right now has 12 pitchers, although the Phillies could add David Herndon and go with 13. Kyle Kendrick has not had a good spring, but the Phils are paying him too much to send him back to AAA. It could happen, as Herndon has been pretty good, but it is unlikely.
What is more probable is that the Phillies will choose to carry an extra infielder or utility player because of the Chase Utley situation. Odds are very good that Utley will start the season on the disabled list with Wilson Valdez filling in at second base. However, this still leaves an extra roster spot open.
The list above includes Michael Martinez, who has played well enough to earn a spot and he plays multiple positions. Plus, Martinez is a Rule 5 player. If the Phillies do not put him on the roster, they have to offer him back to the Nationals. With the way Martinez has played, the Nationals would probably take him back.
That leaves one bench spot for either Pete Orr, Josh Barfield or Delwyn Young. Barfield has been very good at the plate, hitting .355 with three doubles and a triple. He is also speedy, which is a plus.
But Barfield’s main weakness appears to be defense. While he has not committed any “official” errors, Barfield has fumbled the ball more than once. In Saturday’s match-up with the Orioles, Barfield dropped an easy double play ball, did not get any outs and left Cole Hamels hanging. Hamels was having a rough day to begin with, so this did not help.
As for Orr, he is experienced and can play second, third and a little outfield. Orr is batting .343 with three doubles and three triples this spring. Orr also strikes out less than Barfield and Young, but his fielding is average.
That leaves Young, who is intriguing because he can play almost anywhere. However, his fielding is not very good. A lifetime .258 hitter, Young is batting .298 with one home run, seven RBI and two doubles this spring. He is probably the least likely to make the team.
However, there are still nine games left in Florida and two exhibition games in Philadelphia before the season begins. Each player still has time to make a big push towards earning a roster spot.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
In yesterday’s spring training game against the Astros, pitcher Cole Hamels had words with second baseman Bill Hall. Hamels threw a pitch up and in which did not even come that close to Hall, but he apparently took offense.
Hamels blew off the incident saying Hall was a “good guy.” Hall reacted a bit differently. According to the veteran infielder, “He’s (Hamels) definitely a marked man for me now. So when I do some damage off him I’m going to let him know I did some damage off him. I guarantee that. I’m not going to let him disrespect me. If you disrespect me I’m going to do my best to disrespect you back.”
In nine years in the majors, Hall is a lifetime .250 hitter. I am not sure what “damage” Hall is referring to and I am guessing we will not find out anytime in this decade. For a 31-year old, below-average player, these are certainly very immature remarks. Hall is not worthy to lick Cole’s muddy cleats.
The grocery list of Phillies player injuries has just grown a bit longer. It began with Chase Utley’s bum knee, moved on to a broken hand bone for Domonic Brown, a sore neck for Ben Francisco and now, Brad Lidge has joined the party.
According to Phillies sources, Lidge has bicep tendinitis. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said, “He generally has it in the spring,” indicating that this is business as usual for Lidge. The Phillies insist it is not serious. Then again, we have heard that one before.
There are also reports that Lidge’s fastball is not up to speed. Combined with his injury history and the fact that he has yet to get through an entire spring training with the Phillies healthy, there may be reason for concern.
Speaking of Lidge’s history, did you know that Lidge missed parts of his first four professional seasons, from 2002 to 2005, with a variety of injuries? These included a torn rotator cuff, right shoulder tendinitis and a broken forearm that almost ended his career.
Here is a closer look at some of Lidge’s injury history:
- 2002, a strained intercostal muscle near the rib cage.
- December 2003, arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
- June – July 2005, shut down with elbow issues.
- May 2007, bone bruise on his right femur near his knee.
- June – July 2007, left oblique strain.
- October 2007, surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.
- February 2008, tore the meniscus in the same knee he just had surgery on during his first pitch off a mound in spring training.
- June 2009, sprained right knee and a sore elbow, specifically the flexor pronator tendon.
- January 2010, surgery on both the elbow and the right knee again.
- March 2010, the elbow is still an issue and Lidge gets a cortisone injection.
- March 2011, bicep tendinitis.
While history does not always predict the future, the long list of injuries is a bit scary. The amount of time Lidge has missed is an issue as well.
Of the top ten closers in baseball who remained basically healthy in 2010, the average number of innings pitched for each closer was about 68.2 innings per year. Lidge pitched only 45.2 last year and 58.2 in 2009.
The current injury for Lidge may indeed be nothing to worry about. Phillies fans certainly hope that is the case. But at the rate Phillies players are dropping, any injury is scary.
Adding to the Phillies woes, Placido Polanco left a spring game early today after hyperextending the same elbow he had surgery on this offseason. Just like Lidge, the Phillies say he is not expected to miss much time.
For both Lidge and Polanco, many are hoping that history will not repeat itself.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Earlier today, the Phillies finally got the deal done with manager Charlie Manuel. The two-year extension will take him through the 2013 season.
In a press conference, Manuel expressed his desire to stay with the Phillies until he leaves baseball. Manuel discussed other teams he has worked with and then stated, “I’m a Phillie. If I cut my arm it’s going to be red blood, not blue.”
Well, unless Charlie is a horseshoe crab or an octopus, I am pretty sure he bleeds red. But seriously, it is great to have a guarantee for Charlie before the season starts.
During Manuel’s time in Philly, the team has the best record in the National League. Manuel has won 544 games with the Phillies plus four division titles, one league title and , of course, the 2008 World Series Championship.
Spring Training Update
The Phillies are plugging along through spring training despite losing both Chase Utley and Domonic Brown to injuries. Utley is still out indefinitely. Brown had successfully surgery to remove the hamate bone in his hand and is expected to play again in four to six weeks.
Today, Roy Halladay pitched six scoreless innings against the Yankees, allowing only four hits. Halladay was sharp and used his curve ball more than usual in preparation for the season.
While winning by a score of 7-0, the Phillies saw contributions from several lesser-known players. One of those players, Josh Barfield, went 2 for 3, including a triple today. He is hitting .538 in 13 at-bats so far this spring. Barfield is a second baseman who spent parts of four seasons in the majors with the Indians and Padres. He hit .294 with 36 RBI last year in the Indians AAA club.
Barfield has been impressive, which may be of great importance now that Utley’s future is uncertain. Wilson Valdez is an option as well, but it could not hurt to have an extra infielder right now.
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography
While hitting a foul ball in Saturday’s spring training game against the Pirates, Domonic Brown fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. Oddly enough, his very next swing after breaking the bone resulted in his only hit in spring action through 16 at-bats.
Several baseball players have had this very same bone removed in the past. Some of those include former Phillie, Jim Thome and Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia. Apparently, the hand is just fine without this bone, although recovery from the surgery could take four to six weeks.
This may be a blessing in disguise for Brown who was struggling badly to adjust his swing and make the Phillies roster before the end of camp. Time off to reflect on his issues may be a good thing.
In the meantime, the job in right almost certainly will go to Ben Francisco, although the Phillies will not dub anyone the winner just yet.
Thus far, the injury bug has bitten twice for the Phillies in spring training; first Chase Utley and his bum knee, then Brown. Utley is still recovering from a cortisone injection and it will be several more days before any more is known about his knee.
On the bright side, the Phillies pitching staff looks fantastic! Cliff Lee appeared to be almost in mid-season form against the Rays today over four innings. And on Saturday Roy Halladay threw three scoreless innings, allowing only one hit.
In the bullpen, JC Romero pitched today and looked very, very sharp. After going 3-0 on the first batter, he came back to strike the guy out and then mowed down the next two batters in order.
Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras also seem to be moving along well. Neither has surrendered a run yet.
Other roster hopefuls are not having much success though. Eddie Bonine has allowed seven runs in four innings of work. J.C. Ramirez has allowed four runs in five innings. However, most of these guys were not expected to make the team anyway.
Spring action continues tomorrow when the Phillies see the Yankees again. Game time is 1:05pm.
Illustration by Wikipedia
Over the last two days, both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee saw their first spring training action on the mound. Halladay went two scoreless against his old team, the Blue Jays. And Lee gave up two runs in two innings today against the Tigers. Both Phillies aces are in the beginning stages of working out the kinks before the regular season.
But while some are easing their way into baseball shape, others need to play well now. Ben Francisco has taken the proverbial bull by the horns right from the start, as he is competing for the job in right field. Francisco is batting .400 with four hits and five RBI in ten at-bats.
As for his competition, Domonic Brown has yet to get a hit. He is 0 for 12. John Mayberry Jr. has not done too much either, hitting just .250. It looks like the job may be Francisco’s if the young guys do not step it up, fast.
Chase Utley is still resting after being diagnosed with right knee tendonitis. He is able to hit, but not doing any running. The issue has been downplayed by Utley and team management, but this may be something to keep a close eye on.
I had a few thoughts about how to keep Chase Utley healthy. Here are a few ideas:
Clone him. Use a different Utley clone each day to keep him fresh!
The Bionic Man: Replace bum body parts with super-powerful bionic parts:
Iron Man armor:
Store Utley in a protective bubble:
Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography
Also, if you are looking for some cool Phillies tees, check out The Phightins for some unique designs.
Yesterday I posed a question about Chase Utley and his health. Today, the Phillies finally spilled the beans and admitted that Utley has tendinitis in his right knee. An MRI revealed the issue which requires rest in order to heal.
While Utley has agreed to take things slow, the injury is still worrisome. According to the Mayo Clinic, knee tendinitis can involve a grocery list of complications including weakened leg muscles due to overcompensation, tendon tears and chronic pain. The recovery time is anywhere from weeks to months.
In my own personal experience, tendinitis can be chronic and linger for years. Utley has already stated that this is a condition he has dealt with in the past, so it appears to be an ongoing issue. How much it will hamper his future performance remains to be seen. But for now, it is not good news.
On to another sore subject, Jayson Werth made a very bad error in judgment this week when he trash-talked his former team. The Washington Post reported that Werth stated, “I hate the Phillies, too,” during a conversation with his new GM, Mike Rizzo.
I wonder which parts he hated. Could it be his 2008 World Series ring? Or maybe it was all the attention from fans who routinely professed their admiration of him? No, I’ll bet it was that the Phillies signed him when every other team in baseball assumed he was a washed-up, injury prone discard.
Then again, Werth is a National now. And I suppose all Nationals hate Philly for winning four straight division titles while they have done nothing but suck since moving to DC in 2005. Sounds like sour grapes from an underperforming club that has to beg fans of opponents to come to their ballpark just to sell tickets.
In another interview about Phillies fans outnumbering Nats fans in DC, Werth also said, “The reason why those people come over here is they don’t have a chance to watch their team in Philadelphia and as soon as we fill the seats with Nats fans those people are going to go away and we are going to regain homefield advantage and I am looking forward to that day too.”
News flash Werth – We see our team in Philly all the time. The reason most of us go to DC is because Nats tickets are super easy to get. And we do not mind the drive because we love and support our team, unlike most Nats fans who cannot be bothered to show up.
I will be honest; Werth has never been a favorite of mine. I have seen him treat fans badly and even watched him make rude, ignorant comments to small children who were politely asking for an autograph during a previous spring training. So frankly, the “hate” comment does not shock me.
But if Werth thinks his $126 million paycheck is going to fill seats in DC, he is in for a rude awakening. And if he is expecting a Pat Burrell-like greeting upon his return to Philadelphia, I am not sure that “rude awakening” would even begin to cover what Philly has in store for him.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Baseball is finally back! After an 8-0 win in an exhibition game against Florida State on Thursday, the Phillies took on the Yankees today in the first official spring training game. Cole Hamels started in the 5-4 victory and went 2 innings allowing an unearned run.
Notably absent from the game were short stop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley. Rollins was said to be a healthy scratch after missing a few days of camp for a Motown event at the White House. The absences were excused.
The Motown Tribute was held for President Obama in celebration of Black History Month lead by musicians Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. And while that sounds like lots of fun, it also does not appear that Rollins was required to be there for any reason.
J-Roll is in the music business and has his own label, but his job right now is baseball. Leaving his team for two days to schmooze with famous musicians seems irresponsible. Outside interests should be left for the off-season. Of course, that is just my humble opinion.
As for Utley, rumors have been flying about his physical condition. Mentions of “soreness” in his knees and legs are raising eyebrows. Utley missed both the exhibition game and the first official game this week after “intense workouts” during the first week of camp. He may not play tomorrow either.
Utley has been developing a pattern of injuries over the past several years which are becoming alarming. Rumors of a hip injury followed him throughout the second half of 2008. After winning the World Series, he did finally undergo surgery.
His health was questioned after that for much of the 2009 season, although he did not miss signifigant time. In 2010, Utley sprained his thumb and was put on the DL in June. The injury was more serious than initially disclosed and Utley had to undergo surgery on the thumb. He missed 47 games that year.
Not only have the injuries become a pattern, but so has disguising them. A war of words ensued in 2008 when then GM Pat Gillick slipped and told a reporter that Utley was experiencing hip problems. Utley vehemently denied the statement, yet in the offseason, it became apparent that Gillick was telling the truth as Utley had hip surgery.
The thumb injury was underplayed as well in 2010. Now, when rumors of Utley’s health arise, most are inclined to think there is truth to the rumor. Then when Utley drops coy comments to reporters like, “If there’s cause for concern you’ll be the first to know,” it leads people to wonder if they should be worried.
Utley is not a big guy. His weight has been generously listed as 190 pounds on his MLB bio page. His smaller than average baseball player frame has led to questions about his endurance for years. When the previous injuries and previous denials about injuries are all mixed in, it is a recipe for trouble.
The current issue may just be a simple matter of Utley being over-zealous and working himself too hard in camp. But until he gets into a regular spring routine, the questions will linger.
In Other News
- It appears that the Phillies have lost out on relief pitcher Chad Durbin. Offered a minor league deal, Durbin decided instead to sign with the Cleveland Indians on a one-year contract. Durbin is a great guy and he will be missed. I wish him all the best!
- Another relief pitcher, Danys Baez, was a huge disappointment last year. But after signing a two-year deal, the Phillies are stuck with him and hope he can rebound. However, in a B-game today, Baez allowed five hits, five runs and one walk in just two-thirds of an inning. Not good. Even sadder, the $2.75 million he will be paid this year could have been put to better use, like signing Durbin.
The Phillies next spring action is tomorrow and they will again face the Yankees, this time at home in Clearwater. Game time is 1:00pm.
Photo by Jenn Zambri Photography
Spring Training is the best time to add to your autograph collection. The atmosphere is laid back, everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves and you can find many unique, up-close opportunities with the players.
If you are lucky enough to be in Clearwater, Florida from mid February to late March, chances are good that you will get some autographs. But to make it easier, you will need to know a few autograph-hunting secrets specific to the Clearwater area.
From specific locations to proven methods, the following is a list of the top 10 ways to get Phillies’ autographs at Spring Training.
#1: Be Prepared
Before heading off to Clearwater, think about what you would like signed and by whom. Also consider the size, weight and practicality of these items before stuffing your suitcase. Bats and other large items are heavy and difficult to pack, especially if you are flying. Balls, photos and small figurines are fairly simple.
Once you have a plan, be ready to execute that plan in a matter of seconds. Players will not stand around and wait for you to find what you want signed or to search for a pen. Try to carry all items on your person in a convenient place.
For example, I hand sewed the bag in the photo and designed it specifically for 5×7 photos and Sharpies. Inside the bag are hard, plastic photo holders that are open at the top to easily remove a photo. Each photo is labeled with a name tag for easy identification and removal from the bag.
I also sewed in pockets to hold pens and markers. The long shoulder strap I added keeps it close to me at all times and my hands are free to do other things while I wait for an autograph opportunity.
While not everyone is super crafty or good with a sewing machine, this just gives you an idea of what to think about when getting prepared for autographs.
#2: Practice, Practice, Practice
Get to Clearwater early, before the games begin, and attend as many practice sessions as you can. Practice is held at the Carpenter Complex next door to Bright House Field and usually starts around 9:00am and ends somewhere between 12:00pm and 1:00pm, weather permitting.
Practices are free and open to the public. There are four outdoor baseball fields arranged in a box pattern and the bleachers in between are for fans to sit and watch. Usually, all fields are in use at once and players may hop between fields to work on different skills or with different staff and players.
Place yourself in one of the areas in between two of the fields where the players will pass by. If they are not busy, they may stop and sign. There is usually a short fence to keep you out of their area, but the players can walk right up to the fence and sign.
There are food vendors and restrooms for fans to use at this facility, so stay as long as you like. Sometimes, right as practice ends and the team heads inside, a player will walk over to the fans who still remain and sign for a few minutes. So staying late can pay off as well.
#3: The Early Bird Gets The Worm
At this same Carpenter Complex, there are opportunities to get autographs outside of scheduled practice and game times. If you are an early bird, this lesser-known secret is the one for you.
There is a tall, black metal fence that surrounds the complex and secures the player parking area. Many players walk right past this fence after parking to head inside and prepare for the day.
Stand right up against this fence and wait. You can stand on either the side nearest the practice fields by the fan parking lot or on the other side, nearer to Bright House Field. If a player walks by, ask for an autograph.
The photo to the left shows former Phillie Lou Marson signing at the fence.
#4: Persistence Pays
This same method as in the previous slide works after practice or games as well. Although, this requires a lot of patience. Most players do not leave to go home right away and some stay very late to either eat, receive injury treatments or get extra practice time. Most have gone home by 4:00pm.
Also keep in mind that the bigger name players usually park in the back of the building. You can see them drive by, but they are not likely to stop at the fence.
If you are at the fence early in the morning, make note of which players park on which side. Then when you stay after practice, you have a better idea of who will be walking past you and on which side of the fence.
#5: Get Them While They’re Young
Just because a player is not a super star yet, does not mean he will not be someday down the road. Getting autographs from lesser known and younger players can pay off in the long run.
Plus, most minor league players are actually excited to sign for you. Because not many people ask for their autographs, not only will most of them sign, many will hang around and chat with you as well.
Minor league players, many of whom are star-struck at playing with the big boys, are full of fun and interesting information. You never know what you might find out. I will let you use your imagination on that one.
#6: Do Your Homework
While the younger players are easier to get autographs from, some can be shy and slightly more reclusive. In those cases, it pays to do your homework and figure out who is who so you can call them by name.
I once had a minor league player tell me, “I will sign that ball and give you my practice bat if you can tell me what my name is.” I did tell him his name and he did sign the ball. Sadly, I could not coax the bat out of his hand. I assume he thought there was no way I knew who he was.
Another time, I called a player by name and he literally came running over, telling me how excited he was that I knew his name. He then spent the next fifteen minutes talking my ear off about his day at practice.
While he chatted, other players came over to see what was happening and I got three more autographs. It was a chain reaction.
So do yourself a favor and look up names and photos of players who will be at Spring Training before you go. Carry their photos with you if necessary and go get some autographs.
#7: Game Time
Regular practices in Clearwater end when the games begin. If you do not arrive in time to attend a practice, you can still get autographs at the games.
The first thing you need to know is that the “home” side of the ballpark in Clearwater is the third base side. This is the opposite of the ballpark in Philly.
When purchasing game tickets, the best seats for getting autographs are sections 120, 119 and 118. These are along the left field wall where the players enter the field to head for the dugout. You can get autographs as they walk past.
You can also stand in these sections before the game starts and try your luck. However, about an hour before the games starts, the ushers will check tickets and toss you out off that section unless you have a ticket for the area.
If you get tossed out before the players walk by, you are out of luck. The best way to ensure a shot at an autograph here is to buy a ticket for one of those sections.
#8: Keep Your Eyes Peeled
While in Clearwater, you may run into players in odd places like the local mall, bars or restaurants. Carry supplies with you everywhere you go, just in case.
The same is true while the team is on road trips in the regular season. I once ran smack into Jayson Werth on the street in San Francisco in a shopping district.
Wherever you go, keep your eyes peeled for wandering players. Just remember to be courteous and not interrupt them while they have a mouthful of food or appear to be otherwise engaged.
#9: Sugar and Spice Isn’t All That’s Nice
The following is a rule I see people break all the time. Do not be rude and obnoxious when attempting to get an autograph.
This does not only include being courteous to the players, but to fellow fans as well. If someone got to the front of the line or fence ahead of you, do not try to push your way to the front. Wait your turn and be respectful.
Once at the Blue Jays stadium in Dunedin, Florida, I stood up against the left field fence for two hours waiting for the team to come out and warm up. When they finally did, a few players came to the fence to sign.
Some woman behind me who had just arrived was literally trying to climb up my back to get at the player. As he was signing my item, the same woman bashed me in the head trying to thrust a baseball at the player.
The player saw what happened and asked me if I was alright. He then shook his head disapprovingly at the rude woman and walked away without signing anything for her.
You can be sure that player will remember that and avoid her again in the future. Do not be that person.
Help your fellow fans instead. Had the woman been respectful, I would gladly have helped her get the autograph by either stepping aside or handing the ball over for her if she could not reach. As a general rule, just be kind.
#10: Make New Friends
You never know who might help you get your next autograph. Talk to other fans, make friends with the ushers at the ballpark and chat with the locals.
One of those people may have information you do not. One of those people may be able to assist you if, for instance, you cannot get to the front of a line and they are willing to hand your item to a player to get signed.
Ushers especially are fun to talk to and they are usually bored as well. I have had ushers give me foul balls, tell me great stories and once, I even got a signed baseball card. He said it was an extra and wanted me to have it.
I have even had other fans hand me things for free as thanks for information I provided them with or just to be nice. One time, Charlie Manuel came over to a group of fans I was with but I had forgotten my pictures in the car that I was using for autographs. Another fan said he had plenty and gave me one of his photos to use.
I have made friends and kept in contact with many people I met at Spring Training. So while the autographs are nice, making new friends that share your love for baseball is even better.
Good luck and have fun!
Photos by Jenn Zambri Photography