Tag:Philadelphia Phillies
Posted on: October 14, 2009 10:58 pm
 

Phillies: Pedro Martinez to start Game 2?

LOS ANGELES -- The Phillies and Crazy Like a Fox Manager Charlie Manuel are at it again.

They named only their Game 1 starter, Cole Hamels, on Wednesday for the NL Championship Series.

Manuel said he'd get back to everybody with further rotation details.

Last round, the Phils named only their first two starters, leaving everybody to guess on their Game 3 starter. J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton were the favorites, which made for a real interesting scenario when Manuel summoned each of them in relief in Game 2.

For the NLCS after Hamels ... based on his starting Monday in Colorado, Cliff Lee probably will pitch Game 3. Happ, who started Sunday in Denver, likely will pitch Game 4.

Which leaves Game 2 a mystery.

Pedro Martinez?

Joe Blanton?

Don't look now, but indications are that it could be Pedro.

Manuel said Wednesday that Blanton and Happ would be available out of the bullpen in the "first few games" of this series. Martinez, meantime, threw a simulated game Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Which means, adding two and two, you get ... Martinez as the Phillies' Game 2 starter?

"I'll say this about Blanton: I definitely look at Blanton as a starter," Manuel said a moment after confirming that Blanton would be available out of the bullpen in Game 1. "I told you before, he is the guy that can really set our bullpen up. In front of [Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson] ... give me some leverage in the back, if that makes sense.

"And I feel like he is that guy, ... with the mentality and the go get 'em and the grit and the desire and whatever you want to say."

Regarding Martinez, who has not pitched in a game since Sept. 30 and has thrown only seven innings since Sept. 13, Manuel said he was impressed with Pedro in Tuesday's simulated game.

"His stuff is there," Manuel said. "That speaks for itself. Tremendous, beautiful pitch. And therefore he gets back his command. In order for him to pitch good and win games, he's got to have good command."

Posted on: October 14, 2009 10:36 pm
 

Phillies expected to pitch Manny inside again

LOS ANGELES -- Though he no longer carries the Dodger lineup on his back like he did last year, all eyes will remain on Manny Ramirez when Game 1 begins Thursday simply because of memories of how the Phillies treated him in last year's NLCS.

When Brett Myers buzzed Ramirez in Game 2, it nearly caused an international incident. It probably would have had Chad Billingsley or any other Dodger pitcher bothered to step up and respond.

Ramirez isn't the same hitter now as he was then -- he hit just .255 with 10 homers and 34 RBI after the All-Star break this year -- but that doesn't mean the Phillies will treat him more lightly.

Nobody knows Ramirez better than Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel, who became a father-figure to Manny during their years together in Cleveland in the 1990s (Manny as hitting savant, Manuel as the club's hitting coach).

And from the opposing dugout, Manuel always has believed that the most effective way to pitch Ramirez is to "move him around" in the box.

Doesn't necessarily mean drill him.

But it does mean pitch him tight inside, perhaps uncomfortably inside, certainly enough to make him move his feet and back away from the plate.

That Manny isn't the force he was a year ago was evident during Wednesday's workouts in Dodger Stadium. At his formal press briefing, Manuel wasn't asked one question about Ramirez.

The Dodgers, though, spent plenty of time answering questions on the importance for their pitchers to work both sides of the plate -- even though they essentially broadcast their main answer nationally when they unveiled their rotation and Chad Billingsley wasn't in it.

"Pitchers pitch to their strengths and weaknesses," Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa said. "Clayton Kershaw pitches inside. Randy Wolf pitches inside. Vicente Padilla pitches inside."

All three of those were named to the Dodgers' NLCS rotatoin -- Kershaw starting Game 1, Padilla Game 2 and Wolf Game 4. Hiroki Kuroda will start Game 3.

"Pitchers have got to do what they did all year," Bowa said. "I don't think you can say, 'This is the playoffs, I'm going to change.'"

Said manager Joe Torre: "I think it's important all year to [pitch inside]. But last year it got out of hand over there [in Philadelphia] on us. I thought the next game, when we played it back here, sort of showed that we could pitch effectively.

"But again, it's something that you always encourage pitchers to do, and you make sure that your'e able to go out there and make sure that you have a presence as far as knowing what's yours and what's theirs."

 

Posted on: October 11, 2009 9:09 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2009 9:12 pm
 

Game 3 in Denver: Game on, ear muffs required

DENVER -- It's 35 degrees here roughly 80 minutes before first pitch, the Rockies are finished taking batting practice, the Phillies are hitting now ... and no snowmen have been sighted.

What we're going to get here tonight is the coldest Division Series game in history. Current record holder: Game 2 of the 1999 AL Division Series, when it was 48 degrees at game time in New York for the Rangers and Yankees.

Tonight, that record will be shattered.

Still, it's a heck of a sight better than it was on Saturday night, when it was in the 20s with the wind howling.

"We couldn't have played in that wind," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said.

Had they, it would have been ugly.

There is no wind tonight. The flags at Coors Field are hanging, not flapping.

As for the effects, Tracy says he thinks the most difficult thing during Game 3 tonight will be for fielders to get a grip on -- and a feel for -- the ball.

Philadelphia skipper Charlie Manuel thinks the most difficult thing will be for the pitchers to get the feel of the ball on their breaking pitches.

Incidentally, the coldest game-time temperature in history for a Rockies game came in 1997, when it was 28 degrees for a Rockies-Expos game on April 12.

Oh, and one more thing: Aside from that Rangers-Yankees game that is about to get toppled from the record book, the only other two Division Series games to start in temperatures less than 50 degrees were Game 1 of that Yankees-Rangers game in '99, when it was 49 degrees at first pitch, and Game 1 of the '99 ALDS in '99 in Cleveland, when it was 49 degrees at first pitch between the Indians and Red Sox.

Likes: We've seen some wretched umpiring already this fall, and it should be far better than this, but if you can take a breath and stop screaming and hollering for a minute, this piece from the Newark Star-Ledger on umpire Phil Cuzzi is very well done and gives a glimpse into that agony a guy goes through after he blows a call.

Posted on: August 13, 2009 6:17 pm
 

Taking Chemistry 101 with White Sox, Phillies

Those who believe in clubhouse chemistry now have two riveting experiments to watch in these final six weeks: Alex Rios and his Chicago White Sox teammates, and Pedro Martinez and his Philadelphia Phillies teammates.

Both situations involve winning teams with high expectations, a new player with baggage and current players who are popular in the clubhouse and stand to lose playing time.

It is widely believed that Rios' arrival will punch Jermaine Dye's ticket out of town. Dye, a free agent this winter, Rios, Carlos Quentin and Scott Podsednik equal four players for three spots. So? Manager Ozzie Guillen's job just became ever-more challenging. And unless there's mega-understanding, somebody's not going to be happy with each new lineup card posting.

Between general manager Kenny Williams' uber-aggressiveness and Guillen's take-no-crap manner, these are just the guys to handle it. What these Sox have done so well over the years is put winning first, rather than cater to personalities, and that's not changing now.

"That's what we do here," Guillen told Chicago reporters this week. "We hurt your feelings? That's easy. Call your agent, your agent will call [general manager] Kenny Williams and then Kenny will do something about it."

The biggest key might be how much of an effort Rios makes. In Toronto, several sources say, he rubbed several teammates the wrong way with his disinterest in working too hard.

Meantime, Martinez's arrival has pushed veteran Jamie Moyer to the bullpen. Moyer is not a happy camper, and Pedro, historically a diva, could cause a clubhouse rift down the stretch. Especially if he isn't winning. Moyer, integral to the Phillies' World Series title last year, is popular with teammates and is viewed as a mentor by younger Phils (which, yes, pretty much includes all of them being that Moyer is 46).

The prediction here is that, as usual, it will come down to performance and wins in the end. If Rios hits and the Sox win, the rotating outfield quartet will be all smiles. If he doesn't and they don't, it could get ugly.

In Philly, same thing. Pedro's act always has tilted toward the endearing when he's winning, and toward the grating when he's not. His debut with the Phils, a 12-5 win over the Cubs, was a start. If he improves from there, the Phillies' callous shoving aside of Moyer will be far more easily overlooked in the clubhouse.

And if not, Pedro may not be around for the long haul, anyway. And maybe Moyer makes a triumphant, late-season return to the rotation.

At the very least, both situations have the chance to work out splendidly ... or to turn catastrophic. Either way, it'll be must-see TV.

********

How good are the New York Yankees' chances of playing in another World Series?

History tells us this: Dating back to 1995, eight of the 14 teams that owned the best record in baseball on Aug. 13 have advanced to that year's World Series (and four of those teams won).

The eight best record on Aug. 13/World Series teams: 2007 Boston Red Sox, 2006 Detroit Tigers, 2005 Chicago White Sox, 2004 St. Louis Cardinals, 1999 New York Yankees, 1998 New York Yankees, 1996 Atlanta Braves and 1995 Cleveland Indians.

The four World Series winners: 2007 Red Sox, 2005 White Sox, the 1999 Yankees and the '98 Yankees.

The Yankees, by the way, are the seventh different team over the past seven seasons to own the best record in baseball on Aug. 13.

Likes: Caught The Bob Dylan Show -- Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Dylan -- in Lake Elsinore, Calif., on Wednesday night and it was fantastic. Great venue -- at The Diamond, home of the Lake Elsinore Storm, Single A affiliate of the San Diego Padres -- gorgeous night and great sound. Willie Nelson opened, playing for about an hour, and the man may be 76, but his voice is timeless. Of course, his classics Whiskey River and On the Road Again were great, and a couple of Hank Williams numbers mid-show, Jambalaya and Hey Good Lookin', were really cool. Mellencamp rocks, though one of his highlights was an acoustic version of Small Town. He brought out his 14-year-old son, Speck, to play guitar on his final number, The Authority Song, and Mellencamp teased him pretty good ("Now you know you're not in the band, right?"). Pink Houses, Crumblin' Down, Rain on the Scarecrow and a couple of his new songs were stellar. Then, last came the master. And while I've heard Dylan can be maddeningly inconsistent, and barely able to be understood sometimes when he sings, I've gotta say, he and his five-man band were far better than I expected. There isn't any interplay with the audience, but that's fine. Watching Dylan was the same feeling I got when I was in a baseball clubhouse when Muhammad Ali entered a couple of springs ago. To me, there are only a very small handful of icons that can make you sit back and go, 'Whoa', and the reclusive Dylan -- like Ali -- is one. He killed on Thunder on the Mountain and Summer Nights, among many others. All Along the Watchtower, his show closer, was terrific. The Times, They Are A-Changing was barely recognizable until about a third of the way in, but it was great. Two songs from the new album, Beyond Here Lies Nothin' and Jolene, were highlights. All in all, when you can catch three Hall of Famers in one venue on one night, that's a pretty darn good night. ... Oh yeah, and there was a fourth Hall of Famer, too: Basketball legend -- and former Grateful Dead groupie -- Bill Walton was rockin' in the standing room area in front of the stage, about 20 feet to my right. Looked like people were leaving him alone and letting him enjoy the show.

Dislikes: A Cubs fan throws beer on Shane Victorino during Wednesday night's game? All these years later, and Lee Elia is still right. ... Can we just get past the Aug. 17 signing deadline so we don't have to listen to more of the Stephen Strasburg negotiations. Every baseball man I talk to expects, with Scott Boras as the adviser, that it will go right up until the midnight EDT deadline on the 17th. ... Aw, they sold out of the cool Bob Dylan Show concert poster I was going to pick up on my way out of the Lake Elsinore ballpark at Wednesday night's show. It would have looked so good on my office wall, too.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver
"And I'm reading James Joyce
"Some people they tell me
"I got the blood of the land in my voice"

-- Bob Dylan, I Feel a Change Comin' On

Posted on: June 5, 2009 2:02 pm
 

Moyer: 250 and counting

While Randy Johnson basks in the afterglow of career win No. 300, the only pitcher in the majors older than the Big Unit heads to the mound in Dodger Stadium this evening in pursuit of career win No. 251.

No small feat, either, for Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer, 46, who appears close to getting back on track after a miserable beginning to the season, pitching reasonably well in his past three starts (1-2, 4.00 ERA).

And with the streaking Phillies reeling off a seven-game winning streak and opening up a four-game NL East lead over the New York Mets, there isn't quite the sense of urgency that there was earlier when it seemed as if the roof were caving in on the soft-tossing left-hander.

You don't pitch this long in the majors, though, without developing a philosophical side. And while he's confident that the wreckage of his first seven starts (8.15 ERA) is behind him, Moyer says he never reached panic time.

"It's happened to me before in my career and it's probably happened to everyone on the field," Moyer says. "Obviously, you want to minimize the struggles. For some, it's knocked them out of the game. For some, it's been a character-builder.

"You struggle for a reason. Sometimes it's unknown."

Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee has at least an idea as to why the struggles.

"Jamie likes to tinker a lot," Dubee says, smiling. "Some of the tinkering led to difficulties with his arm angle and with his arm slot.

"But (tinkering) is probably why Jamie Moyer has been around for 23 years. He's always looking for some kind of edge."

He also spent a lot of time looking at an unusual career souvenir at home in Bradenton, Fla., over the winter.

Remember those television shots and photos of Moyer carrying the dug-up pitching rubber around like a bagged hunting trophy in the immediate aftermath of the Phillies' World Series triumph last October?

Well, the pitching rubber -- which measures 18 inches long and some four-to-six inches deep -- is displayed on a shelf in the bedroom of he and wife Karen at home.

"It's pretty cool," he says. "I have it in the bedroom so I can look at it when I go to sleep and again when I wake up in the morning. It brings back a lot of good memories."

He has a second pitching rubber, dug up after his Seattle Mariners tied a major-league record with their 116th regular season victory back in 2001, on display at the house the family still owns in Seattle.

Likes: Saturday afternoon games. ... The days when pitchers were men and, doggone it, stayed on the mound -- like this old game from Monroe, Mich., in 1968. ... The opening sketch from Conan O'Brien's first Tonight Show on Monday, was classic. He "realized" he forgot to move from New York to Los Angeles, and when he couldn't catch a cab outside of his New York office building, he started running and ran all the way west to Los Angeles. Very funny. Letterman is still where it's at, though. ... New album from Jimmy Buffett on the way this fall, Buffet Hotel. That's always good news. ...

Dislikes: One day very soon, the Yankees are going to figure out a way to install each of their exalted players inside of a personalized, portable, plastic bubble so that they can move about without ever having to suffer the indignity of coming into contact with common, everyday street trash like you ... and the fans who actually, uh, support them. The latest evidence.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Thirteen's my lucky number
"To you it means stay inside
"Black cat done crossed my path
"No reason to run and hide
"You're looking through a cracked mirror
"No one really knows the reason why
"Your enemies are gettin' nearer
"Gonna hang down your head and cry"

-- Social Distortion, Bad Luck

Posted on: February 18, 2009 2:17 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2009 2:28 pm
 

Charlie Manuel and his piece of history

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Remember all the controversy over what happened to the baseball from the final out of Boston's historic World Series win over St. Louis in 2004? When first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz went home with the ball and the Red Sox kicked up a fuss about wanting it back?

No such bickering from the gracious and generous Philadelphia Phillies.

Closer Brad Lidge and catcher Carlos Ruiz combined on the final out, Lidge throwing strike three past Tampa Bay's Eric Hinske.

Then they presented it to manager Charlie Manuel.

"Carlos and I were talking about what we were going to do with the ball," Lidge says. "Carlos was gracious all year, giving me the last-out ball from all of my saves."

This time, he didn't. And the duo's decision was unanimous.

And any regrets from Lidge four months later?

"No, Charlie deserves it," he says.

The baseball, however, still remains in an undisclosed location.

"I've got it. Don't worry about it," Manuel says, chuckling. "I've got it."

Where?

"I don't want to make a big deal out of it like Mientkiewicz."

Why? Is the manager afraid someone might take it from him?

"No," he says, chuckling. "They can't find it."

Likes: I don't blame Tampa Bay one bit for holding pitcher Scott Kazmir out of the World Baseball Classic this spring. Sorry, but if I'm a club exec and I have even one iota of concern about a player, I everything I can to keep him out of the WBC. ... Love a couple of New York tabloid headlines today in the aftermath of the Alex Rodriguez press conference. From the New York Daily News: "Now Try Truth Serum." And from the New York Post: "We're With Stupid."

Dislikes: Are we all sick and tired of watching the 1,000th clip of the Alex Rodriguez press conference? We are? Let's all ignore it from here on out. Yeah, right, like that'll ever happen.

Sunblock Day: Yes, nice warm sun, but it's windy in Florida today, and the wind is carrying a bit of a chill. It's supposed to rain in these parts Thursday and drop the temps down to a high of 60 on Friday. Brrrr.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The lazy way they turned your head
"Into a rest stop for the dead
"And did it all in gold and blue and gray
"The efforts to allay your dread
"In spite of all you knew and said
"Were hard to see and harder still to say"

-- TV On The Radio, Halfway Home

 

Posted on: February 14, 2009 3:08 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2009 9:18 pm
 

Phillies: Less weight, and Hamels for opening day

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- You wouldn't know it by looking at their wallets -- Philadelphia's team payroll has ballooned to $131.5 million for 2009 -- but the world champion Phillies are lighter on their feet this spring.

Almost as soon as the Phillies' pitchers and catchers stepped onto the field here for their first workout, it was noticeable. Starter Brett Myers is significantly lighter from last year. Reliever Scott Eyre has dropped probably 10 pounds. Andrew Carpenter, who pitched at three different levels in the minors last year, has lost weight as he prepares to battle for a spot in 2009.

And hard at work scooping up ground balls on a different field, first baseman Ryan Howard, in early, has dropped 20 pounds, to 250 from 270.

"That's good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think we showed up in good shape."

Of course, it's one thing to show up in good shape and another to stay there, figuratively speaking, and the Phillies are about to find that out. No team since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees has repeated as World Series winners. The Phillies return nearly their entire team from '08, and Manuel thinks they have every chance to be even better. He told them as much, too, during his season-opening speech before they took the field.

"It was about winning and winning again," Manuel said. "I told them that's behind us. If you're thinking about yesterday, you're not doing nothing to win again."

Manuel estimated that the speech lasted 10 or 15 minutes.

"I was trying to find an ending," he said. "I finally asked (pitching coach Rich) Dubee, 'Do I need to say anything else? And he said, 'No, Chuck, you covered it.'"

It's way too early to make any definitive assumptions, but the fact that several Phillies have reported in good shape certainly bodes well. Myers, for example, is coming off of a tough season in which he was shipped back to the minors for a time before the All-Star break. He finished 10-13 with a 4.55 ERA in 30 starts and helped redeem the year with his postseason work, but he still comes in with much to prove in '09.

To Manuel, Myers losing weight "means he's been thinking about the season and getting ready for it."

"He finished (last) season strong, which was really great for him," Manuel said. "Also, knowing him, he's definitely thinking about how he'll pitch this whole season. And this is the last year on his deal, and I think he's thinking about another good deal ... and staying with the Phillies."

Manuel was in midseason form already after the workout:

-- On how he views himself as a speechmaker: "Sometimes when I speak at banquets I can get on a good roll and be funny. I never have my speeches (prepared). Today's wasn't very prepared. Usually, when I do prepare it, I'll look down and I can't find where I'm at, so I have to start making it up."

-- On whether he's ready to name ace Cole Hamels as his opening day starter: "You might as well go ahead and pencil him in. There's no sense in me bulls----ing."

Oh, and no word whether the manager lost weight over the winter.

"I don't talk about the manager," Dubee said. "I like my job."

Cracked Manuel: "That's smart."

Likes: Good line from new Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. just after the Phillies took the field for the first time this spring, while they were stretching in the outfield. No, it wasn't when he said that it was "like Groundhog's Day." It came when someone asked him how the Phillies were looking this spring. "They're really stretching," he quipped. "They're lifting their legs well." ... Another terrific episode of Friday Night Lights the other night. The scripts, the acting ... what a great show. Coach Taylor's character is especially strong, from the way he's in charge on the football field to the way he's a little befuddled at home sometimes by his wife and daughter. Hmm, maybe I can relate. ... Gran Torino. Another really enjoyable Clint Eastwood flick. ... The way David Letterman handled Joaquin Phoenix last week. What a dope Phoenix is. Make sure to check out the YouTube clip if you missed it. ... Daily reports from spring camps. Ah, happy new year.

Dislikes: Sad to hear of the passing of Ted Uhlaender, the former major-league outfielder and longtime coach who most recently was working as a scout for the San Francisco Giants. Uhlaender died of a heart attack on Thursday after battling cancer -- multiple myeloma -- for a couple of years. Uhlaender was a first-class guy who, among other things, was extremely proud of his daughter, Katie, who is an Olympian in the skeleton. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was exceptionally close to Uhlaender from their days together in the Minnesota organization in the 1960s, so much so that Manuel added Uhlaender to his coaching staff when Manuel managed in Cleveland a few years ago. Saturday, Manuel recalled how Uhlaender was in Double-A ball when Manuel signed professionally, and how they stayed in the same barracks in Melbourne, Fla., during spring training. "I was with him a long time," Manuel said. "I used to go fishing with him, go eat dinner with him, and we'd have cocktails together. He was a good friend." The two were so close that Manuel is considering attending Wednesday's memorial service in Colorado, though that's the day of the Phillies' first full-squad workout.

Sunblock day? Nice and warm, but very overcast much of the day.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
"Keep me in your heart for awhile
"There's a train leaving nightly called 'when all is said and done'
"Keep me in your heart for awhile "

-- Warren Zevon, Keep Me In Your Heart

 

 

Rants:

Posted on: January 5, 2009 7:12 pm
 

Rays land Burrell; did Phillies blow it?

As wallets creaked shut and the dollars didn't flow nearly as freely as certain free agents hoped this winter, Pat Burrell wound up moving from one World Series team to another.

An "American League player" for, oh, roughly most of his career, Burrell now really is an AL player, having signed with Tampa Bay for two years and $16 million.

It's a noticeable cut from the $14 million he earned for the world champion Philadelphia Phillies last year.

What's also noticeable is that the Phillies long ago replaced Burrell with an older, more expensive left fielder.

Maybe Tampa Bay's gain will be Philadelphia's loss.

Burrell, his lifetime .083 batting average in Tropicana Field notwithstanding (he's 1-for-12 there with one homer and two RBI), is a significant upgrade for the Rays, a left-handed heavy team in need of a righty bat and designated hitter.

Over the past four seasons, he's averaged 31 homers, 99 RBI, 103 walks and 77 runs scored, and he is one of only six major-leaguers to hit 20 or more homers in each of the past eight seasons. Carlos Delgado, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez are the other five.

Not bad for $8 million a season.

Meantime, the Phillies gave Raul Ibanez three years and $30 million.

Ibanez, over the past four seasons, has averaged 24 homers, 105 RBI, 63 walks and 90 runs scored. His lifetime OBP is .346.

Burrell is 32 (he won't turn 33 until next Oct. 10). Ibanez will turn 37 on June 2.

While Burrell routinely was removed for defensive purposes, Ibanez is a competent left fielder but is in no danger of winning a Gold Glove award anytime soon himself, either.

Burrell well could surpass the 536 at-bats he reached last summer in Philly because, in the AL, presumably spending most of his time as a DH, he will not be removed in the late innings.

There are never any guarantees in the winter, and if Burrell's weak Tropicana Field numbers continue, then the Phillies could look like geniuses for cutting bait and going with Ibanez.

But that's a really small sample, of course, and odds are that Burrell, in time, will rake at the Trop. And at five years younger than Ibanez and with a price tag that dropped below Ibanez, you have to wonder whether the Phillies, in the end, out-smarted themselves.


 
 
 
 
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