Results tagged ‘ World Baseball Classic ’

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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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

Bring On The Yankees

During Spring Training this year, I predicted a Phillies – Yankees World Series.  It was more of a wish than a realistic thought at the time, but nonetheless, I have gotten my wish :O) Apparently, Jimmy Rollins made the very same prediction; what can I tell you?  Great minds think alike.

Not only will this be an epic battle of David and Goliath – the Yanks with 26 World Championships and the Phillies with only 2 – but it has been my lifelong dream to witness these two teams do battle on the grandest stage in baseball.  You see, I have two favorite teams in every sport – one NL and one AL.  These are my two teams!  This about sums up how I feel right now:

The Phillies are my #1 of course, and you can read why on the About Me page.  But I grew up in central NJ and the Yanks were always on TV.  If I asked for a Phillies hat for Christmas, I got a Yankees hat.  So while it was forced upon me at first, I grew to enjoy watching Reggie Jackson whack balls out of the park.  And the crazy facial hair of Goose Gossage made me giggle.  Lou Piniella, Thurman Munson, the 1977-78 World Series…classic stuff.  And then in the 90’s, it was all about Derek Jeter…

This is also why I love Spring Training…I get to see moments like Jeter & Utley sharing a man-hug.  And Jeter & Rollins joining forces on Team USA:Phils Yanks.jpg

I am SO excited!!  How about everyone else out there?  What is YOUR dream World Series and why?  Feel free to share in the comments and you may be in my next blog!

In the meantime, Go Phillies! (and a slightly less enthusiastic, Go Yanks :O)

Photos by Jenn

 

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Outta Here!

Many baseballs left the ballpark today, as well as many players.  Marcus Giles, who batted only .167 this spring, was given his release today.  This was the best option for Giles who would not see a lot of action in the minors; this way, he has a chance to move on to another team.  P2222389 Mayberry.jpgJohn Mayberry Jr. and Carlos Carrasco were both optioned back to the minors.  Mayberry started off hot in camp this year, but struggled as the pitching became more difficult.  He needs some more work to be big league ready, as does Carrasco.  Three other players were told officially they would not make the team’s 25-man roster, but they will stay with the Phils until Saturday to give Charlie Manuel a few more options during the On Deck Series.  The three players are Philadelphia native, Mike Koplove, RHP; 2nd baseman Pablo Ozuna; and outfielder Jason Ellison.

This leaves Miguel Cairo as the only extra right-handed bat, unless a trade is pulled off in the next few weeks.  Cairo has not hit as well as Ozuna this spring, but he can play multiple positions and has a great deal of experience.  Also, the Phillies are required to release Cairo if he does not make the 25-man roster, which may play into the decision.  Rumor has it also that Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins are up for grabs; however, the Phillies are going to have a hard time getting rid of either as Stairs is nearing retirement and Jenkins is well over-paid.

Also still up in the air is the 5th starter’s spot.  Chan Ho Park has made this a very difficult decision; today he pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up 6 hits, 1 walk and only 1 earned run.  Park also struck out 7 and now has an ERA of 2.53 in 21 1/3 innings.  Lefty JA Happ currently stands at 20 innings with a 3.15 ERA.  Things being fairly even, Happ is still the best choice to start as Park has a proven track record as a reliever and Happ is not so comfortable in that role.  Plus with the addition of lefty Jack Taschner, there is less need for Happ, also a lefty, in the pen.  Park would be horribly disappointed in the decision if it goes that way, especially since he gave up pitching in the WBC this year, so does his mental status play into this as well?  That remains to be seen…

The Phillies bats are heating up in preparation for Opening Night as evidenced by four home runs today from Jimmy Rollins, Eric Bruntlett, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. 

P3024905 Bruntlett.jpg
7 of the Phillies 13 runs in the 13-3 victory over the Astros came off the long ball.  And Bruntlett in particular had a fun day against his former team, going  3 for 4 with 4 RBI.  With all this power unleashed, it makes you wish these guys would save a bit for the real thing.  Only 6 days left!

Brett Myers, now scheduled to start on opening day, will pitch tomorrow against the Blue Jays at 7:05pm.  Cole Hamels got into a minor league game today and said he felt no discomfort.  Hamels is tentatively scheduled to start with the Phillies on April 10th against the Rockies.

(All Photos by Jenn)

 

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Food For Thought

Although the Phillies outhit the Red Sox today and racked up 7 walks, they lost the game 3-1 as a result of having 12 men left on base.  The 4th inning was a great example of the trouble the Phils had closing the deal; Raul Ibanez singled off Jon Lester, followed by a Pedro Feliz double.  With runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs, John Mayberry popped out.  Keeping the inning alive, Chris Coste earned a walk to load the bases; but then Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino went down in order to end the threat.

The good news is that the Phillies made a habit out of this last year and still won the World Series.  The bad news is, lightning usually does not strike twice in the same place.  Not to say they cannot repeat, because they are more than capable, but the offense needs to solve the issue of leaving men on base to add to their chances.  Plus, many Phillies hitters are behind schedule from where they would normally be this time of year because of injuries like those of Coste, Feliz and Chase Utley.  Rollins and Victorino are also behind in the number of at-bats they should have because of the WBC.  Just a few thoughts for our offense to chew on.

Cole Hamels is also running behind, not only due to the elbow injury, but his rehab was further delayed today when the minor league game he was set to pitch in was reportedly cancelled due to rain.  The rest of the Phillies pitchers however, appear to be right on track. 

Joe Blanton has pitched very well this spring and gave up only 4 hits and 2 runs in 6 1/3 innings today against a strong Red Sox line-up.  We are all waiting now to see the new Phillie, Jack Taschner get into a game so we can see what he has to offer.  Aside from that question mark, the regulars in the pen look ready to go.

P7306527 Lidge.jpgAnd since we are on the subject of food, I just read an article about big league food in the MLB Insiders magazine by Jeremiah Sullivan.  According to Lance Berkman, the major leaguer with the biggest appetite is his former teammate, Brad Lidge.  “Brad Lidge will eat any and everything in sight,” says Berkman.  “It doesn’t matter what it is, he constantly crushes food.  He eats more than any other human being that I’ve seen in my entire life.  And everything has Tabasco sauce on it.”  Ok, gross.  P2222396 Utley.jpgSo what sort of food does All-Star Chase Utley like best?  “Sushi day is definitely my favorite,” says Utley.  “It is only served once every few home stands – that isn’t often enough.”  Raw fish; good to know.  Between that and the Tabasco sauce, I may never eat again.

And today marks 1 week until Opening Night in Philadelphia!  Whoo Hooo!  But until then, grapefruit league action will continue with the Phillies taking on Mr. Berkman and his Astros at 1:05pm tomorrow.

(All Photos by Jenn)

 

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Spring Training Photo Fun


Since the Phillies have the day off today, I thought I would share some more Spring Training photos with you.  These fall under the categories of weird stuff, accidents and a whole lotta Shane Victorino.

Let’s start with Shane!  1st photo: Note that his glove has a special engraving, “Kaipo” – in Hawaiian, this means “Sweatheart.”  How cute is that?  2nd photo: A Yankees fan taunts Shane after catching a home run ball:

Victorino collage.jpg

Fans with possible brain damage – This first one is what happens when you have had one too many beers and a home run ball decides to visit:

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And this one is not so funny; good news though, after getting beamed with a foul ball, this kid was ok!

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YMCA Oddity:  Apparently, the ground crew at Yankees Spring Training are required to do the YMCA for the fans between innings.  The music started and here is what happened next:

YMCA.jpg

And as soon as Victorino got on base after witnessing the YMCA insanity, here is what happened after that:

SV YMCA.jpg

So how many of you are singing “YMCA” right now?  :O)

Another fun baseball event; the breaking of the bat.  Adam Dunn, Team USA, demonstrates.  Note the bat handle in the first shot:

Dunn bat.jpg

Thumbnail image for P3035904 Jeter Wright.jpgAnd finally, Derek Jeter and David Wright, brought together by the weirdness that is the World Baseball Classic.  After a game win, the two were caught fist bumping; but not without a safety divider.  Adam Dunn steps in to keep the weirdness from getting out of hand.

I hope you enjoyed the photos!  The Phillies will be back on the diamond tomorrow at 1:05pm to face the Yankees.

 

 (All Photos by Jenn)

 

***Visit the Phillies Phollowers Online Shop today!***

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USA Eliminated Despite Rollins’ Perfect Game


P3056801.JPGNo one can say that Jimmy Rollins did not do his part to help Team USA advance in the World Baseball Classic; but despite his best efforts, the USA was eliminated by Japan last night.  Rollins, in the DH role yesterday, went 4 for 4 at the plate, including a triple; he also stole a base, had 1 walk and scored a run.  But in all 5 times Rollins was on base, only one time was he able to score.  The other 4 times, he was left stranded.  J-Roll ended his stint in the Classic with a .417 batting average, putting him 3rd place overall for the USA.

Some rather controversial moves by the USA manager, Davey Johnson, also seem to have contributed to the loss.  At times, it seemed more like Johnson was trying to make everyone happy, rather than trying to win the game.  This is an unfortunate consequence of the presser put upon Johnson by Major League coaches to only use their players in certain ways, at certain positions.  For example, pitcher Roy Oswalt was left in the game too long; he should have been pulled earlier in the 4th inning, before the 5 run explosion by Team Japan.  But, likely because Johnson felt a duty to Oswalt’s team, the Astros, he was left in to stretch out his arm in preparation for the upcoming MLB season.  By the time Oswalt got his pitch count in, the damage was done.

Another issue arose in the 8th inning when, with the USA down 6-4, Shane Victorino stood in the on deck circle to pinch hit with a runner on 3rd and 1 out; at the last minute,
Thumbnail image for P3056631.JPGJohnson pulled Victorino and sent Evan Longoria to the plate.  Johnson was obviously hoping for a long ball from Longoria, but the problem was that Longoria, being right handed, was going to have to face a right handed pitcher and monster winds that were blowing towards right field.  Victorino, who is a switch hitter and could have batted left-handed, had a much better shot at getting a hit off the righty and could have used the wind to his advantage.  So, why would Johnson put Longoria in?  One possible reason is that Longoria was a late addition to the team and had not yet gotten an at-bat.  Johnson likely felt indebted to Longoria for making the trip out and decided he should at least get one at-bat out of the trip.  While this is very nice and thoughtful of Johnson, it was not in the best interest of Team USA.  Longoria struck-out, Brian Roberts grounded out and that was the end of the threat.

Defense also hindered the Americans from advancing; with 3 errors in the game, Mark DeRosa playing first base, where he had never started before, and Adam Dunn in right field, Team USA was just not able to keep pace with Japan.  Dunn, put in the game for his bat even though he is a below average fielder, wound up going hitless in 5 at-bats with 1 walk and 3 strikeouts.  In the future, if the USA intends to compete, they are going to have to prepare much earlier for this tournament; plus, players and managers will have to understand that these are real games and that they will be expected to play accordingly.  Will this ever actually happen?  Your guess is as good as mine.

So the good news for the Phillies is that J-Roll and Victorino will be returning to camp.  After a 3-0 loss to the Red Sox yesterday, the Phils will be hoping that J-Roll can kick start the offense for them.  Jamie Moyer gets the start today against the Yankees at 1:05pm.  Less than 2 weeks until Opening Day…things are going to get a lot more interesting the closer we get to April 5th.  More on that later…

(All Photos by Jenn)

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Phillies and Mets Unite!

Ok, well not really.  But Phillies Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino did participate with David Wright of the Mets yesterday to advance Team USA to the semi-final round of the World Baseball Classic.  In fact, all three Phillies that were still involved with the Classic had a hand in the victory along with Wright.  JC Romero, playing for Team Puerto Rico, did not exactly get the outcome he wished for, but he did play a role in this very exciting game.

By the bottom of the 9th inning, Team USA was losing by a score of 5-3 to Puerto Rico.  Enter, Shane Victorino; Victorino smacked a single down the 1st base line off his own Phillies teammate, Romero, to start the comeback.  Victorino played a huge part in the entire game, going 3 for 4 with an RBI. Next up, Brian Roberts singled; Victorino then tagged on a Jeter long fly ball to move to 3rd base.  Enter Rollins, who was issued his 2nd walk of the night to load the bases.  Romero was lifted from the game, shaking his head as he walked off the mound, having given up a hit and a walk to his own Phillies teammates.

Fernando Cabrera came in to relieve Romero, but then proceeded to walk a run in (Victorino), making the score 5-4.  Wright then took over, whacking a 2 run walk-off single, on which Rollins and Roberts scored.  Game over – Team USA wins, 5-6.  See video of the final hit and celebration HERE.

But the most fascinating part of the win for me was seeing Wright, Rollins, Victorino, and even Mike Schmidt, not only get the job done together, but then watching them celebrate together afterwards.  As heated as the Phillies – Mets rivalry has become over the past several years, you never would have known it watching these NL East opponents working together to attain a common goal.  Here is a still shot from the video of the last hit and the celebration:Team USA.jpg

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?  Ok, well, perhaps that is going a bit far… ;o)

Team USA will travel to the west coast after tonight’s game against Team Venezuela, which will determine the top seed.  Team Korea will join them in Los Angeles as well, to prepare for the next round of the Classic.  The final team has yet to be decided; Japan and Cuba will battle tonight for that remaining spot.

 

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Luck Abounds!

Good news today for the Phillies on this lucky St. Patty’s Day; Cole Hamels’ elbow issue is not serious.  He got a cortisone injection and should be back to pitching in about 2 days.  He may or may not be ready for opening day though, as he’ll need time to stretch out his arm and get his pitch count up, but that’s ok; the Phillies have options with JA Happ and Chan Ho Park.

Pot of gold.jpgThe other good news of the day is that the walking wounded have almost all returned to regular play.  Chase Utley after hip surgery; Pedro Feliz after back surgery; and pitchers Chad Durbin and Brad Lidge all played in today’s rout of the Reds.  Utley struck out twice and walked twice, scoring one run; Feliz went 0 for 3.  So the bats will take some time to return, but ultimately, just the fact that they are playing in mid-March is great news.

Same goes for Lidge and Durbin; Durbin pitched 1 inning of no hit ball and Lidge also pitched an inning, giving up one run on two hits and a walk in a non-save situation.  The Phillies went on to win, 8-1 which in itself can also be seen as a stroke of luck; after being whipped by the Yankees yesterday, 11-0, they needed a big win to get the confidence back.

Brett Myers looked fantastic as he took on the Reds, pitching 5 2/3 innings, surrendering only 4 hits and no runs; he struck out 7 batters.  If Myers is needed for Opening Day, it looks like he will be ready.

WBC Highlights

Team USA is currently in the 4th inning of their game against Team Puerto Rico; the winner moves on, the loser is eliminated.  The USA is in the lead for the moment, 3-1.  Let’s hope they brought their lucky shamrocks with them!  Jimmy Rollins started the game as the DH and Shane Victorino is in center.

Next up for the Phillies

Wednesday at 1:05pm, the Phillies will take on the Blue Jays at Bright House field in Clearwater, FL.

 

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And The Winner Is…

Shot Of The Day Award:  The Phillies beat the Cardinals in the bottom of the 9th today on a Jason Ellison walk-off hit that scored Miguel Cairo from 2nd base.  Ellison, a 7-year major league veteran who played for the Rangers, Mariners, Reds and Giants, is trying to make a new home in Philly.  Ellison is now batting .222 this spring and the hit today gave him his first RBI.  Cairo, on the other hand, has been hot this spring, batting .370 with 4 RBI and 2 home runs.  After 13 seasons bouncing around the majors, Cairo signed a minor league deal with the Phillies for 2009.

The Pitching Prowess Award goes to Chan Ho Park, who got the start for the Phils today and managed 4 2/3 solid innings of no-run ball, giving up only 3 hits.  It is looking like Park will make a real run at the 5th starters job, with his biggest competition so far, being JA Happ.  Park seems determined to win the job, even consulting with Jamie Moyer after his outing to get more advice from the ageless  wonder.  During an in-game interview, Park joked that he wished he would be able to pitch at Moyer’s age.  Park displayed some real personality in that interview and is actually a pretty loose and funny guy.  Seems he will fit in well here in Philly, whether that be as a starter or in the pen.


Jayson Werth, Greg Dobbs
and Cairo each had 2 hits in the game today; Werth does not appear to be bothered by any of the recently reported injuries, which included a hamstring and shoulder soreness.  His first inning home run flew straight out of the stadium, over the Tiki Pavillion in left field.

But the real thrill today came when Chase Utley stepped to the plate to lead off the 1st inning for the Phillies.  Fans jumped to their feet and cheered, happy to see Utley in his first official grapefruit league action.  Utley played 4 innings, and although he did not get a hit in his 2 at bats, he looked very comfortable both at the plate and on the field.  Message?  Utley will be ready for Opening Day!  And so, Utley gets my Comeback of the Spring Award :O)

And the Entertainer of the Day Award goes to…Matt Stairs. 
DSCF1105 stairs.jpg
Stairs gave the crowd a giggle when he stole 2nd base in the 8th inning.  Probably the slowest guy on the team, Stairs kind of resembles a lumberjack more than a professional baseball player.  Known mostly as a power hitter, in his 16 year career, Stairs has hit 254 home runs and stolen only 28 bases….that is 1.75 bases per year, on average.  So, seeing him swipe a base during spring action was very entertaining. ;o)

WBC Highlights

Spanking of the Day Award:  Team Puerto Rico gave a spanking to Team USA yesterday; final score 11-1.  Ouch!  Phillies teammates JC Romero (PR), Jimmy Rollins (USA) and Shane Victorino (USA) were on-hand for the beating, although Romero did not pitch in the game.  Victorino was 0 for 3 and Rollins played the field but did not get an at-bat.  Adam Dunn and Brian McCann each had a pair of hits for Team USA, but the rest of the team pretty much bent over and took the punishment.  Team USA will get a shot at redemption tonight when they take on the Netherlands at 7:30pm tonight.

Next up for the Phillies

Monday at 1:15pm, the Phillies will take on the Yankees at George Steinbrenner field as grapefruit league action continues.

 

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