Tag:Philadelphia Phillies
Posted on: February 20, 2011 6:43 pm
 

Verlander wants to be Mr. April

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander is a three-time All-Star, has logged 200-plus innings for four consecutive seasons, has won 37 decisions over the past two and owns a career 3.81 ERA.

So what to work on in spring training?

April.

"I'm a little more focused on some things I need to come out of the gate strong," Verlander was saying the other day in Lakeland.

Last April, Verlander went 1-2 with a 5.53 ERA over five starts.

Put those aside, and the Pride of Old Dominion University was 17-7 with a 3.07 ERA the rest of the way beginning on May 1.

It's been a disturbing pattern: Over the past three Aprils combined, Verlander is 3-8 with a 6.28 ERA over 16 starts.

That's why Verlander this spring is keeping a list of five bullet-point items in his locker.

"Every day I'll look at that list," he says. "They're just some things I worked on in April when things weren't going right. Things that helped me get to my May and June form."

In a way, Verlander is concentrating on his own Daylight Savings Time program.

"Trying to set the clock forward a month," he says, grinning. "To May."

He was not specific in what those bullet points are.

But he is specific when he's on the field.

"I don't just work on those things when I'm throwing in the bullpen," Verlander says. "I'm working on them at other times, too. Like even when I'm playing catch every day."

As they say, spring forward ... and try to avoid falling back.

Sunblock Day? Only another suitable-for-framing 85-degree day with no humidity.

Likes: Love Josh Beckett wondering if Boston can win 100 games and Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins is predicting 100 wins for the Phillies. We'll see. ... The gulf at Punta Gorda off of I-75 is a beautiful sight on a sparkling, sunny day. ... Things are going much better on the drives since I picked up an iPod plug-in for the rental car's auxiliary jack instead of relying on the cigarette lighter cable that tunes to a particular radio frequency. Crystal clear music for the drives now, instead of intermittent static.

Dislikes: So at 7 Sunday morning, I'm in Circle K getting coffee (OK, there's the first problem). I head to the men's room. It's locked. The gal behind the Circle K counter sees this and instructs me, "Use the other one." Really? The ladies' room? "Nobody's in it," the gal says. At this point, it sounds like the men's room is out of order. So still in an early-morning haze, I open the ladies' room door and take a step in. And there's a lady sitting there on the toilet, pants at her ankles, and she immediately throws up her hands and lets out a scream. Rightfully so. The Circle K woman apologizes profusely. I get my coffee, pay and get the hell out of there as quickly as I can before the lady emerges from the restroom.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It was 1990 give or take I don't remember
"When the news of revolution hit the air
"The girls hadn't even started taking down our posters
"When the boys started cutting off they're hair
"The radio stations all decided angst was finally old enough
"It ought to have a proper home
"Dead, fat or rich, nobody’s left to bitch
"About the goings on in self destructive zones"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Self-Destructive Zones

Posted on: February 14, 2011 7:37 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Outtakes from a day with a Phillies' rotation that is moving into history's on-deck circle (maybe):

-- It bears repeating, because Cliff Lee mentioned it a couple of times Monday: He signed with the Phillies, he said, because "it was really about what team gave me the best chance to win world championships over the life of the contract."

He did not say he signed with Philly because it was best for his family. He did not say his wife loved it there. He did not say he signed to be close to Philly cheesesteak sandwich heaven (though he did allow, "I like Philly cheesesteaks. But that had nothing to do with me coming back to Philly.").

"I think Philadelphia fans should feel real proud about that," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said, referring not to the scrumptious sandwiches, but to Lee's feeling that Philadelphia can become Titletown. "I think things really started rolling as far as putting us back on the map, so to speak, when Jim Thome came here [in 2003].

"Ed [Wade, former Phillies GM] did a fantastic job bringing Jim here.. I think it legitimized what we were trying to do."

-- Lee's decision to bypass the Yankees and Texas reinforces what has been becoming fact these past few years: Philadelphia has become a destination for ace pitchers. Lee by choice, Roy Halladay waving no-trade powers to land with the Phillies and Roy Oswalt doing the same.

Which is very interesting, given that Citizens Bank Park has earned a unanimous reputation for being a hitter's haven.

"It's kind of a testament to the fans' support, and to winning, too," Amaro said. "It's a testament to the faith that our ownership group has in the front office to make these moves. It's a testament to all in our organization creating an atmosphere where Philadelphia has become a place where people like to go, from the guards who watch the cars in the players' lot to the people who take care of the wives' lounge, the medical staff.

"We make a concerted effort to build relationships here."

-- Manager Charlie Manuel opted to pass when asked which of his Murderers' Row rotation members would get the opening day start.

"We've got a chance to have a special club," Manuel said. "We've got a guy who threw two no-hitters and won a Cy Young [Roy Halladay] last year, and the other three guys standing there are tremendous pitchers.

"We're going to have a No. 1 starter going every day, so it doesn't really matter."

Of the Phillies' quintet, Cole Hamels is the only one never to have started on opening day. Halladay did it in Toronto and in Philadelphia last year, Lee's done it, Oswalt did it plenty in Houston and Joe Blanton did it in Oakland.

"The real good part of it is, it doesn't matter who you pick, it doesn't faze the other guys," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "I don't think any of them has a big enough ego to say 'I have to have the ball on opening day.'

"They all want the ball 33 to 35 times."

Sunblock Day? It was perfect. High right around 70 degrees.

Likes: Great line from Yankees' starter CC Sabathia, that he lost a bunch of weight over the winter because he "stopped eating Capt'n Crunch." I would have picked A.J. Burnett as the Captain Crunch eater of that group. ... Phillies pitching prospect Justin DeFratus, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League last year, taking it all in early Monday morning before the first workout for pitchers and catchers. "It's been crazy here so far," DeFratus said ... Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro wearing a baseball cap with the final scoreboard line score from Halladay's playoff no-hitter against Cincinnati stitched onto the front. ... Arcade Fire winning a Grammy for best album for The Suburbs. Excellent. Great performances, too. ... Winter's Bone.

Dislikes: Getting to the gate for your flight at 6 a.m. and hearing the attendant say, "Sorry, this flight is delayed until at least 10." ... Missed Bob Dylan on the Grammy's Sunday night because of a too-long travel day.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Kids wanna be so hard
"But in my dreams we're still screamin' and runnin' through the yard
"And all of the walls that they built in the '70s finally fall
"And all of the houses they build in the '70s finally fall
"Meant nothin' at all
"Meant nothin' at all
"It meant nothin'
"Sometimes I can't believe it
"I'm movin' past the feeling
"Sometimes I can't believe it
"I'm movin' past the feeling and into the night
"So can you understand?
"Why I want a daughter while I'm still young
"I wanna hold her hand
"And show her some beauty
"Before this damage is done"

-- Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

Posted on: February 14, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2011 3:59 pm
 

Phils' Manuel waiting for extension

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Maybe this doesn't register on the Albert Pujols Contract Richter Scale, but there was one small ripple of curiosity as the Phillies took their Dream Rotation onto the field for the first time Monday.

The manager of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels is entering the final season of his contract. And Charlie Manuel seems a bit puzzled as to why there has been no extension yet.

"Hopefully something happens in spring training," Manuel said after the Phillies' first workout for pitchers and catchers Monday. "My extension, the contract, I don't want it to be a distraction for my team.

"I think, once the season starts, I don't want to talk about my contract."

When someone asked whether that means Manuel doesn't want to talk about it with "us or with them" -- the media or the Phillies' brass -- the manager joked, "Call Pujols and ask him."

Manuel is entering the final season of an extension he signed back in 2008 and is believed to be earning close to $2 million in 2011.

"Obviously, we want to get it done," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said. "We'd love to keep Charlie in our uniform. We've been working on something since December."

The sticking point, it is believed, is that Manuel wants to be one of the game's top-paid managers after guiding the Phillies through their most successful stretch in franchise history since 2008.

"This is the only time I want to talk about it," Manuel continued. "I went through a situation [similar] before."

Though he was not specific, Manuel appeared to be referring to the messy way he left Cleveland in July, 2002. Then in the final year of his contract and with the Indians evolving into a youth movement -- they had traded Roberto Alomar the previous winter and they dealt ace Bartolo Colon to Montreal in late June -- Manuel was fired on July 11 following a showdown with Indians general manager Mark Shapiro when Manuel pressed for an answer on his future.

"Every now and then, you might think about something," Manuel said Monday. "But you stay focused. You stay busy, you stay focused, and things will work out."

Asked if he was surprised that he's starting spring training with no guarantees beyond this year, Manuel said, "Not really, no."

Asked if he was disappointed, Manuel didn't hesitate.

"Not really," he said.

While it isn't necessarily optimal for a manager to enter a season in the final year of his deal, it's not unprecedented. Tony La Russa, for one, has been working on one-year deals the past couple of seasons in St. Louis.

While Amaro said he's hopeful of striking a deal with Manuel this spring, if he doesn't, he said, it "would not be the first time int he world a manager would go into the season without a contract extension.

"We'd love to be able to put it to bed. But we'll see."

Posted on: December 15, 2010 1:11 pm
 

Love Letters: The Crazy Winter $$ edition

OK, here's the mail call from this week's monster Phillies/Cliff Lee deal -- followed by some reaction from the winter meetings and Adrian Gonzalez/Boston -- but I'm warning you New Yorkers:

I don't give a crap if Lee's annual salary in Philly will be more than it would have been with the Yankees. Plain and simple, he left nearly $30 million of guaranteed money on the table. There is no disputing that. So don't tell me that he really didn't sign with Philly for less money. Because he did. Period.

FROM: Jim
Re.: In the end, Lee chooses (Brotherly) love over money

Your sense of reality is as delusional as these baseball players. You make it seem like he is making such a big sacrifice. You have no idea what goes on in the real world, and articles like this are sickening to the middle class and upper-middle class people of this country. Gee Scott, Cliff made such a sacrifice. My heart bleeds for him. Write something with substance. Your article was ridiculous.

I have no idea what goes on with the middle-class people in the real world? Really? Let's see ... drove my daughter's car pool to school for the third day this week today. Driving car pool to schlep her and two of her friends to volleyball practice after school later today. Hauled the trash and recyclables out to the curb this morning for trash day. Helped nurse my wife following her hip replacement surgery for the past five weeks after returning home from covering the World Series (imagine, we don't have full-time, in-home staff). Signed off on my daughter inviting seven friends over Saturday for a Christmas cookie-making party. So what is all of this, the upper class? The poverty class? Sounds suspiciously like middle class to me.

FROM: Dave S.

It is heartwarming to see a pitcher follow his heart and go to a league that allows him to be a complete player rather than being pressured by the Players Union into taking the money from the highest bidder ... aka CC Sabathia.

Like at the end of the Grinch, when the old Grinch finally understands the meaning of Christmas.

FROM: Barry R.

I love your work. However, when will sports writers get this salary thing right? He is being paid more per year by the Phillies than the Yankees or Rangers offers. He gets to say that. If he works seven years, he'll make more than the Yanks and Rangers offers if he take a huge paycut in years six (which won't happen with the option) and seven. He's making more per year, and likely more overall than the other offers. He gets his cake and eats it too.

Thanks, and I love that you take the time to write. But Lee will turn 33 next season. He will be 38 when his first five years with the Phillies is up. Odds are overwhelming that he will not see year seven in this deal. And odds are whelming that year six might not ever appear given health issues.

FROM: Mike
Re.: Blockbuster deals make BoSox winners of winter meetings

The Red Sox right now look more blockbuster than Blockbuster. You are correct since Blockbuster is in bankruptcy.

Don't worry, no way a judge allows the Red Sox in bankruptcy court. Daisuke Matsuzaka works too slowly even for the courtroom. He'd slow the proceedings down so much, even a discussion of tax law would be a thrilling upgrade.

FROM: Tom B.

Like most media, you say Boston made out great. All they did was replace hitters of equal value. If I recall, they lost Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. OPS for these hitters was about the same as Gonzalez and Crawford. So Boston stayed even so far. The biggest edge Boston has is that Pedroia, Youlkilis and Ellsbury will be back. They added a lot of payroll and gave away some excellent prospects for Gonzalez. Conventional wisdom has it that Gonzalez will struggle, lose .050 on OPS due to changing leagues. The ballpark will help both a bit. From the standpoint of improving from where they started the winter meetings I could agree, Boston did the most. But compared to the Yankees -- and I am not a fan of the Yankees -- I say they are the poorest run organization in baseball and have been for years. All they did was get back to where they were. Thanks for listening and keep your column going. I do like it.

Very well-reasoned points, sir, and as they say, that's why they play the actual games. Right now, we're grading paperwork, essentially. When the schedule starts in late March, maybe you'll be proven right. But I think you're under-valuing Adrian Gonzalez. He's going from one extreme to the other -- from Petco Park, which severely works against hitters, to Fenway, which works for them. And his style of hitting is so conducive to Fenway -- all those opposite field shots that will bang off of the Green Monster. We'll see. And as far as Boston being a poorly run organization -- the Sox do have two World Series titles since 2004, which is one more than the Yankees and two more than they've had for decades.

FROM: Grant MacDonald

I love your sense of humor and presentation of facts. Boston has indeed walked away the winter winner. I am sorry my Blue Jays can't compete since the early 90's. It's a shame to see the greed affect the game. For teams who can't compete, fan base will dwindle and the team may have to move on. This is just sad!

I know. In some of these cities, last one out, turn out the lights.

FROM: Steve H.

To the San Diego Padres:

Thank you so much for the early Christmas present. We have all gotten so much more competitive overnight [without any of us having to do anything!].

Sincerely,
The Dodgers, Giants, Rockies and D’backs.

Next thing you know, these four will be sending a joint Christmas card.

FROM: Chris O.

The Gonzalez to the Red Sox trade is another reason why MLB is losing its popularity in the past 20 years, and the ratings show it. EVERY time there was an NFL regular season game against an MLB playoff game, the NFL game got higher ratings. Even Two and Half Men and Modern Family beat out Games 4 and 5 of the World Series!

I have so many friends who don't care about baseball anymore simply because the Yanks and Sox hoard the free agents every offseason from the small-market teams. ... The NFL has a salary cap, salary floor, and parity has brought its best ratings in over 20 years because every team has a chance, and you never see a small market teams like Indy losing Peyton Manning to the NY Jets or Giants to Free Agency. If I were a Padres fan, I would not even care about the team anymore, because if you can't afford your best player, what is the point of rooting for them?

I am saying this as a Phillies fan, because they have become the Yanks/Sox of the NL and they just go out and get guys like Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt from small-market teams to improve their team. Hopefully things change, because MLB is slowly becoming a regional sport for fans.

It is very difficult to argue with your points, Chris. And your last sentence is ringing more and more true with each postseason rating dive.

FROM: Justin H.
Re.: The era's best GM, Gillick a master of the decades

Sure he built winners, but I think a lot of people overlook the fact that when he leaves a team, they collapse because the team got old and Pat Gillick had gutted the farm system to build the major league club by trading prospects and giving up draft picks for signing free agents.

This happened with the Blue Jays, it happened with the Mariners, and it will certainly happen to the Phillies as their veterans age and I think you saw the first signs of that last year. Think about the Jays first, who was drafted or acquired to replace Joe Carter or Roberto Alomar, David Cone or Jack Morris? Then look at the Mariners, who was there to replace Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Dan Wilson, Joey Cora, John Olerud, Jay Buhner, and Jamie Moyer? Now look at the Phillies, who is going to replace Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and you could already see the effect of losing Brett Myers to some extent last year. You could say the Phillies are exactly like the Mariners were when they were winning but they are aging now and they don't have any youth sitting on that bench learning and they have traded away the farm to acquire players like Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, and now have lost Jayson Werth, which will hurt them more than anybody realizes at the moment. Utley is hurt all the time now and Ryan Howard appears to be losing some bat speed and is prone to slumps and high strikeout streaks.

I think Gillick was great at taking teams with deep farms systems and decent major league clubs and using that to his advantage. You'd have to ask those fan bases if the winning for 4 years was worth the future. I'm sure in the Blue Jays and Phillies cases it is but in the Mariners case they did not win a World Series and are now in such a deep hole the end isn't in sight so I'd say it wasn't worth it for them. I personally think Pete Gillick is highly overrated.

You've hit on the knock on Gillick, that teams swirl down the drain after he leaves. But it's sort of like the "It's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all" thing, isn't it? Gillick helped give four cities -- Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia -- some of their most exciting baseball in decades. Wouldn't you take that, however you can get it, if you're in those cities? And the flip side of that argument is, if Gillick wasn't the GM, there is every chance those cities never would have won during that time anyway.

FROM: Dbarv
Re.: Yanks, cut drama and give Jeter fair offer for an icon

IMO, Jeter is worth about 8 bucks an hour.

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

 

Posted on: December 7, 2010 3:53 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 4:42 pm
 

Crain, others looking for Benoit deal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Everyone is trolling the lobby for pitchers, and this side of Cliff Lee, what most teams want is bullpen help.

So why, then, has only one reliever signed with a new team on the free agent market so far?

Look no further than Detroit, where the Tigers signed free agent set-up man Joaquin Benoit to a three-year, $16.5 million deal earlier this winter.

The Benoit signing has put visions of sugar plums (and multi-millions) into the heads of middle relievers throughout the game.

And not all executives are ready to concede that type of contract to guys who will pitch the sixth, seventh or eighth innings for them.

"No way in hell am I going to pay a guy like that $5 million a year," one NL general manager said.

Among the dozens of relievers still on the market is Jesse Crain, who pitched very well out of the Minnesota bullpen for the past several seasons -- and sources say he's among a handful of relievers right now is targeting a contract similar to the one Benoit got from Detroit.

Aside from Benoit, only two relievers have signed so far this winter: Closer Mariano Rivera re-signed with the Yankees for two years and $30 million, and middle man Jose Contreras re-signed with Philadelphia for two years and $5.5 million.

Posted on: December 3, 2010 2:10 pm
 

Love Letters: Readers on broadcasters

Few people get into the hearts of baseball fans the way broadcasters do. I wrote a Thanksgiving column about this, and primarily about the passing of legends Dave Niehaus (Seattle), Harry Kalas (Philadelphia) and Ernie Harwell (Detroit), and about the heart scare with Bob Uecker (Milwaukee), and the reaction follows.

Before we get to that, though, Cubs play-by-play man Pat Hughes, as a labor of love, has spent his past five offseasons producing CD audio tributes to several legendary broadcasters. The latest CD features Niehaus. Others available feature Uecker, Kalas, Marty Brennaman, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Bob Prince and Red Barber. They're great items, and if you're interested, you can get more information here.

And now, on the sad day that we learned of Ron Santo's passing, here are a few readers telling their own tales following Giving thanks for the great voices in baseball. ...

FROM: Jeremy D.

Scott,

Great article, especially this time not only for the giving of thanks, but [for writing this while next season] is still a ways away. I am 33 and have been a Phillies fan for most of those years. Harry, as we call him around here in south-central PA, still holds the most memorable call in my many years as an avid sports fan: Mike Schmidt's 500th home run. When he passed away last spring, I, as many others were, was devastated. It was like losing a close, long-time friend. I have spent more time listening to Harry than I've spent listening to many of the friends and relatives I know personally. I still love to hear Vin Scully call a game, as well as Jon Miller on the radio, and Marty Brenneman. Some of the newer guys have promise, but Scully's voice flat-out IS summer. Thanks again for the pleasant cold-November-day read.

One more great thing about these broadcasters that come into our lives: Unlike certain relatives, they don't show up uninvited for the holidays!

FROM:
Jim W.

Thank you for that great story on the voices of summer. I moved to Seattle in 1993 and I will always remember Edgar's double and Griffey scoring from first to beat the Yankees in the 1995 Divisional Series. It was the year after the strike, and Dave's call is the reason I love baseball again.

The great ones can do that for us, can't they?

FROM: Rob

Great article! XM radio is the best thing to happen to baseball and the MLB app is great with the ability to hear both radio feeds.

Love XM. What a perk it is to be able to sit on my back patio on a Saturday in the summer, Cheez-Its within reach, clicking around the satellite radio dial listening to broadcasts from each city.

FROM:
Keith B.

I think you are right on with your column about the great baseball announcers. I became a big fan in the summer of 1962 listening to Harry Caray, Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell. I lived in Rapid City, SD. After dark I could pick up the various stations that carried MLB games. Sometimes it was not very clear but I could hear enough to know what was going on. My great grandfather & I would listen to Vin Scully on KFI out of Los Angeles. Happy Thanksgiving.

South Dakota, Michigan (where I'm from) ... one great thing about the Midwest is the flatlands allow strong radio signals to carry unimpeded for hundreds of miles. I could listen to the Tigers, Reds, Indians, White Sox, Cubs. ...

FROM:
Dan L.

Dear Scott,

As a fellow broadcaster and Michigander, I was blessed as well to grow up listening to the National Treasure that was Ernie Harwell. I was lucky enough to do a 20-minute interview with him on my radio show a couple years ago and felt like I had lived some of the moments that Ernie described to me from an era that I was not even alive during. He just helped make you feel part of something special, and through the sharing of his experiences throughout his amazing career, I kept thinking to myself just how lucky we are to have had Ernie be a part of our lives and us a part of his. I think CBS is very lucky to have you writing for them and I would love to stay in touch and have you on my show in the future. Keep up the great work!

Very kind. Thanks.

Posted on: October 24, 2010 2:40 am
 

Sanchez chased but spark lit

PHILADELPHIA -- No, Jonathan Sanchez was not trying to drill Chase Utley.

Truth is, Sanchez had no more idea of where his fastball was going than he did of what a gallon of gas will cost next Thursday. But there is no question that the San Francisco Giants were a different team following the benches-clearing incident in their 3-2 Game 6 NL Championship Series clincher here on Saturday night.

After Sanchez hit Utley, the second baseman reflexively picked up the baseball and tossed it in Sanchez's direction en route to first base. The lefty did not appreciate the gesture, and Sanchez hollered as much at Utley. Which is when the benches cleared. (The umpires, by the way, did an excellent job of keeping things under control without issuing any ejections).

As the champagne sprayed in the Giants' clubhouse after, Sanchez refused to say what he hollered at Utley.

"I'm not going to say nothing about that," Sanchez said.

As for Utley tossing the baseball toward him, Sanchez had plenty to say about that.

"You can't do that," Sanchez said. "Take your base. He tossed the ball back to me. If you're a professional, you don't do that."

It was the third time Utley was hit by a Sanchez pitch in 20 plate appearances during his career. The two have had one previous set-to. During a game in July, 2009, Sanchez threw a fastball near Utley's head, after which the second baseman took a step toward the mound and glared at the pitcher. Later in the same at-bat, Utley called for time late, stepping out of the batter's box just before Sanchez delivered a pitch. On the next pitch, Utley smashed a homer.

Still, Sanchez said, none of that has anything to do with what happened Saturday night.

"I was trying to throw strikes with my fastball and I couldn't get anything over the plate," he sdaid.

While pitching coach Dave Righetti said Sanchez had some of his best stuff of the year during pre-game warm-ups, it disappeared by the time the first inning started. Sanchez was removed two batters into the third, after a walk and then hitting Utley in the upper back with a pitch.

His line: Two innings plus, three hits and two earned runs. He had as many wild pitches and hit batters each as strikeouts (one). He walked two.

"I didn't have it," he said. "I didn't have my best stuff."

It's not as if he didn't contribute, though. Closer Brian Wilson agreed with third-base coach Tim Flannery's assessment that the benches-clearing incident sparked the Giants.

"I'll tell you what," Wilson said. "It certainly lit a fire. I'm glad it happened. You realize what was at stake.

"At that point we were losing [actually tied 2-2] and you're looking for any reason to wake up."

Posted on: October 18, 2010 8:43 pm
 

Everything but a homecoming dance for Rollins

SAN FRANCISCO -- Usually, you schedule cupcake opponents for homecoming. But in the case of the San Francisco Giants, they might be getting Jimmy Rollins at just the wrong time.

Rollins, from across the bay in Oakland, will be coming home in a sense for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the NL Championship Series here. He grew up in Oakland, went to high school there (same one attended by pitcher Dontrelle Willis) and even became pals with MC "U Can't Touch This" Hammer (the Oakland native and former Athletics' batboy). His mother was a highly skilled fast-pitch softball player in the area.

Now, Rollins, the 2007 NL MVP, comes back just as he might be getting untracked in this postseason.

"That's going to be fun," Rollins said late Sunday night before the Phillies chartered West. "That's going to be fun. I've got quite a ticket list. And I love playing in front of my family, friends that I haven't got to see in awhile. And also, the fans.

"They're, like, on the fence. Do they boo me? Do they get on me? Do they cheer me? So I go over there and have conversations. They crack on me, I crack back. But it was never in a situation like this."

The Phillies and Giants are even at one game apiece in this NLCS. And while Rollins has scuffled more this season than he maybe ever has in the majors because of two different calf injuries and, in September, a strained quadriceps.

He was 1-for-15 in the postseason before Game 2, but there are indications that perhaps Rollins is snapping out of that funk. He worked a bases-loaded walk in Game 2 and belted a bases-loaded, three-run double. He also singled.

"I hope it gets real special for him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Rollins' homecoming. "Jimmy's going to enjoy it.

"I hope he plays like he can. When he gets going, he's a very consistent player, and he can carry it for quite awhile."

Though this is the third consecutive NLCS for Rollins and the Phillies, the shortstop has never played a game in the Bay Area as important as this.

"I'll probably get some treatment along the lines that Pat [Burrell] got [in Philadelphia]," Rolline predicted. "Just because I'm from there and everybody knows it. But it makes the game fun. That's what you live for.

"If they don't boo you, you're probably not a good player."

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com