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Tag:Charlie Manuel
Posted on: September 8, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 11:48 pm
 

3 to Watch: The 'Discourage them' edition

The Phillies' goals for the rest of the season would seem to be simple.

Stay healthy (or get healthy). Get rested. Figure out a playoff rotation. Try to break the club record for wins (it's 101, and after a win Thursday the Phillies need just a 10-10 finish to break it).

This week, as the Phillies have faced two potential playoff opponents, manager Charlie Manuel threw another goal out there:

Intimidate the opposition. Look as unbeatable as possible.

"If you play really well, it could discourage them," Manuel said, in advance of this weekend's series in Milwaukee.

The Phillies will likely open the playoffs against the Diamondbacks, who were 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers entering play Thursday. In that case, their second-round opponent would be either the Braves or the Brewers.

The Phillies swept the Braves in a three-game series. They opened a four-game series against the Brewers with a 7-2 win Thursday night.

The games barely matter in the standings, with both teams far ahead in their divisions. Manuel thinks they could matter in the minds of the players, especially if one team dominates the other.

"When I managed in the minor leagues, I had some big hitting teams," he said. "I always liked it when the other team watched us take batting practice. It scared them."

So Charlie, someone asked, does that mean you don't want your pitchers watching when Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder take BP?

"My pitchers can," he said, laughing. "My starting rotation can watch them."

Nothing will scare Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee et al, Manuel figures, probably correctly.

But there is some thought in Philadelphia that the one team that would really concern the Phillies would be the Giants, who knocked them out of the playoffs last year and also won two of three in Philadelphia in July (although the Phillies then won three of four in San Francisco).

The Phillies lost two of three to the Brewers in April, but the Phillies don't look at the Brewers the way they look at the Giants.

Not yet, anyway.

If the Brewers play really well this weekend, maybe the Phillies could be the team that gets discouraged.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. With Josh Beckett's ankle injury, the Red Sox have reason to worry about their starting rotation. They don't have to worry about making it to the playoffs. Right? Uh, I think that's right, but I also noticed that Boston's wild-card lead over the Rays shrunk to 6 1/2 games on Thursday night. And I noticed that the two teams have seven remaining head-to-head meetings, starting with Red Sox at Rays, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. Great pitching matchup Sunday, with Jon Lester going against James Shields, but especially with Beckett out, the Red Sox might be more focused on what happens Friday, when John Lackey faces Wade Davis. Of the 140 pitchers that have started at least 15 games in the majors this year, Lackey (6.11) is the only one with an ERA over 6.00.

2. For the last three weeks, the Angels have had an easier schedule than the Rangers, and that's no doubt one reason why the Rangers' lead in the American League West shrunk from seven games to 2 1/2 games. But the schedule turns starting this weekend, when the Rangers begin a homestand against the A's and Indians, followed by a trip to Seattle and Oakland. Meanwhile, in Anaheim, it gets tougher, including Yankees at Angels, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. At least the Angels have their top three starters set for the series, with Jered Weaver facing Bartolo Colon on Friday, Dan Haren against CC Sabathia on Saturday and Ervin Santana against Freddy Garcia on Sunday.

3. When someone asked Manuel the other day if there's any way Vance Worley could find his way into the postseason rotation, the Phillies manager said: "I think that's a question that should be asked." While the Yankees and Red Sox wonder if they have enough pitchers they would want to start in October, the Phillies seem to have too many. Worley has been outstanding, but it's still hard to see Manuel using him ahead of Roy Oswalt, especially since the manager is on record saying he expects Oswalt's velocity to pick up in October. Worley gets another chance to make his case in Phillies at Brewers, Sunday afternoon (2:10 ET) at Miller Park. It's an interesting case, as the Phillies have won each of Worley's last 14 starts. If the Phillies win Sunday, Worley will tie the Philadelphia club record of 15, set by Steve Carlton in 1972, his 27-win season. The last longer streak in the big leagues was by the 2005 Cardinals, who won 17 straight Chris Carpenter starts.

Posted on: July 29, 2011 10:59 pm
 

With Pence, Charlie Manuel gets his hitter

Charlie Manuel got his way.

He got his hitter.

And Ruben Amaro proved that when given the choice, he doesn't always trade for a pitcher. He may often trade for an Astro, but not always for a pitcher.

Oh, and Hunter Pence steps in as the next Jayson Werth.

That's basically what Friday night's big trade comes down to. The Phillies, who allowed Werth to leave as a free agent last winter (no way were they going to match the $126 million Werth got from the Nationals), have now acquired Pence to take his place in right field, and his fifth spot in the batting order, behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Young Domonic Brown proved unable to handle that spot, at least for now.

Pence is in some ways the perfect Phillies acquisition, because he cost only prospects (very good prospects, but very young prospects), and because they'll have him under control for at least two years after this one. In building a Phillies roster that has won four straight division titles and played in two World Series, Amaro and his mentor, Pat Gillick, have emphasized building a core that could stay together for a number of years.

This week, the Phillies basically passed on Carlos Beltran, who is a more dynamic hitter than Pence, but is a true rental player who they would have only controlled to the end of this season.

That fits the Phillies' pattern. Picking a hitter over a pitcher doesn't.

In fact, this will be the first year since 2005 that the Phillies' big in-season acquisition isn't a starting pitcher.

They don't need another starter, not with a rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and the emerging Vance Worley. They might need bullpen help, but Phillies people remind you that with a four-man playoff rotation, either Oswalt or Worley would pitch out of the bullpen in October.

Even so, earlier this week, Amaro came to the clubhouse to poll the Phillies' coaching staff. Hitter or pitcher, he asked.

You know which way Manuel voted.

The Phillies manager always wants another hitter. He often campaigns openly for Amaro to add another hitter.

This time, he got his way.

Pence is a good fit for the Phillies, just as Beltran fit the Giants well. The Giants needed someone to bat third. The Phillies already had the third and fourth spots covered.

Pence can just fit in, as Werth did for many years. And as a right-handed hitter, he fits in particularly well behind Utley and Howard, who both bat left-handed.

He's also, as one Phillies person said Friday, "reliable."

And you know he has his new manager smiling, even before he gets to town.

Posted on: July 15, 2011 7:37 pm
 

Will Phils again trade for a pitcher?

NEW YORK -- The Phillies opened the second half with two starting position players on the disabled list, and one closer returning from the DL.

So what does that mean for the Phils' trade plans as the July 31 deadline approaches?

Good question, but here's one thing worth remembering: Every year, it seems that manager Charlie Manuel says the Phillies need another hitter. And every year, general manager Ruben Amaro trades for a pitcher.

So even with Ryan Madson returning from the DL, and even with the chance that Jose Contreras may be back, too, it would surprise no one if the Phillies go after someone like Padres closer Heath Bell.

The Phillies have made a midseason trade for a starting pitcher each of the last five years (Jamie Moyer, Kyle Lohse, Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt), but with Oswalt on the way back from the DL to join Roy Halladay, Lee and Cole Hamels in the rotation, that seems significantly less likely this year.

But don't the pitching-strong Phillies need another bat?

They might, and more specifically they could use a right-handed bat. But Phillies people will remind you that they haven't had their full lineup together very often this year, and that while Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco begin the second half on the DL, neither is expected to be out very long.

Phillies people even suggest that with Madson already back and with Polanco, Victorino and Oswalt soon to follow, they may not need to make any moves. They remind you that money is tight.

History tells you they always make a move.

And history tells you that they usually choose pitchers over hitters.

*****

Polanco, who went on the DL Friday with lower back inflammation, could return as soon as next Wednesday. The Phillies were able to backdate the DL posting by 10 days (to when Polanco last played), and he said Friday that he was able to avoid getting a shot in his back.

"I'm just going to rest it," Polanco said.

Manuel said that Madson won't immediately return to his role as closer. The plan is to use him in the seventh or eighth inning the first time or two. Pitching coach Rich Dubee told reporters that Madson won't be used on back-to-back days, for now.

The Phillies have had three closers hurt this year (Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras, in addition to Madson), but they've had just three blown saves. And only one of those was in the ninth inning (Madson, on June 9).


Posted on: June 29, 2011 7:51 pm
 

Manuel: 50-win Phils could be even better

PHILADELPHIA -- We've been through this before with the Phillies.

We spend so much time talking about how many guys are hurt, or about what trade they absolutely must make, or about how they're just not hitting. And we forget about how many games they're winning.

They won 97 last year, the most in the majors (for the first time in franchise history), and it was almost like it snuck up on us. They're the first team in the majors to 50 wins this year, and it feels like it snuck up on us again.

That's 50 wins in 80 games, after all. That's 50 games, with Wednesday night's game against the Red Sox to play before the Phillies reached the halfway point in the schedule.

Halfway to . . . 100?

"I think we can play as good, if not better [in the second half of the season]," manager Charlie Manuel said. "If you start talking about 100 [wins], at the same time, that's a lot of games."

Only two Phillies teams have won 100 games. They did it back-to-back in 1976-77, and haven't done it in 34 years since.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:26 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 2:27 am
 

The best (19th inning) pitcher in the game

PHILADELPHIA -- Roy Halladay didn't no-hit the Reds.

Wilson Valdez did.

Roy Halladay didn't make this game memorable. Wilson Valdez did.

No one will ever forget the night Halladay no-hit the Reds in the playoffs. And no one will ever forget the night (early morning?) that Valdez no-hit the Reds in the 19th inning.

I know this much: The next time Halladay pitches against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park, I'm there. And you should be, too.

The first time he faced them, Reds starter Travis Wood took a perfect game to the ninth inning. The next time he faced them, Halladay made like Don Larsen.

And Wednesday night -- early Thursday morning -- Valdez made like . . . Roy Halladay?

Well, sort of.

Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball. He has 175 career wins, and a 3.29 career ERA.

Valdez is a utility infielder, who last pitched in some town game in the Dominican Republic, nine years ago. And he now has a 1-0 career record, and a 0.00 career ERA.

He got Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Carlos Fisher in the top of the 19th, and Raul Ibanez's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 19th made the Phillies -- and Valdez -- a 5-4 winner in one of the craziest games you'll ever see.

And Wilson Valdez was absolutely the star.

"He's wanted to pitch for a while," said Dane Sardinha, who caught him. "Now I'm sure he'll want to even more. But I'd hang it up right now if I were him. Perfect record."

Valdez was having none of that.

"Anytime they need me," he said.

And why not? He threw one pitch at 90 mph, most of the others at 88-89.

"That's better than some guys," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Manuel hates the idea of using a position player to pitch. He said he'd never done it. But he ran out of pitchers, Danys Baez had already thrown 73 pitches (easily the most he'd thrown since he became a reliever eight years ago), and Manuel decided it would be too risky to use one of his other starting pitchers.

So Valdez it was, in the 19th inning, at 1 o'clock in the morning.

At first base, Ryan Howard told Reds coach Billy Hatcher, "If he throws anything like he throws it [across the infield] to me, he'll be nasty out there, because he throws sinkers."

Behind the plate, Sardinha put down one finger for a fastball, over and over. Valdez tried to shake him off ("I thought, what is he about to throw," Howard said), but Sardinha put down one finger again.

Votto flied out to center field, but then Valdez called his catcher to the mound. Actually, two catchers, because Carlos Ruiz was playing third base, and he joined the conversation, as well.

"He told me he wanted to throw his other pitches," a disbelieving Sardinha said. "Then he hit [Scott] Rolen with a slider."

In the stands, where a surprising number of fans remained, the crowd got as loud as it had in hours.

"Let's go Wilson!" they chanted. "Wil-son! Wil-son!"

Sardinha -- and Valdez -- went back to the fastball to get Bruce and Fisher, the final Reds pitcher, who threw 95 pitches in 5 2/3 innings and was in the game long enough to get two at-bats.

Then the Phillies scored, and the game was over, just 6 hours, 11 minutes after it began.

"It was a grind," Howard said. "But we got a new spark of life when Wilson went out there."

Valdez was the happiest Phillie around, even happier when a reporter told him he was clocked at 90 mph.

He admitted that he went to the mound with no pressure ("I just thought, throw a strike, because if [Votto] hits a home run, they're not going to say anything. He's a tough hitter.").

He said he was ready to keep pitching if the Phillies didn't score in the bottom of the 19th.

"I could go three more, four more, whatever," he said. "This is something I'm never going to forget."

I'm with him on that. And if you saw it, I'm guessing you are, too.

*****

Two more memorable lines from a memorable night:

Sardinha, on whether Valdez had good stuff: "I told him he did, but it was [just] all right. He had a good sinker, and that was it."

Baez, on his 16th-inning at-bat, when he struck out: "I put on the wrong helmet. I put on a helmet to hit left-handed, and I thought, 'There's something wrong.' And I forgot to put pine tar on the bat."

Manuel, on Valdez: "I put him in against the heart of the order, [to] see what he's got. I think he passed the test."

Posted on: May 25, 2011 7:35 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 5:48 pm
 

It's a Philly thing: Charlie Manuel loves B-Hop

PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel is a baseball man, not a boxing man.

But Charlie Manuel can't get enough of Bernard Hopkins.

The Phillies manager started talking about Philadelphia's favorite boxer Wednesday afternoon, and he didn't want to stop. In fact, Manuel said he wants Hopkins, who he has only met once, to come by Citizens Bank Park and talk to him again.

"I absolutely love listening to him," Manuel said. "That's one tough guy who wants to be a champion."

That tough guy wants to see Manuel again, too. After reading Manuel's comments, Hopkins representatives were already working Thursday to arrange a ballpark visit sometime next month.

Manuel said he was most impressed by Hopkins' confidence and drive, something he saw again on an interview this week, after Hopkins became the oldest boxer to win a world championship last Saturday.

"I know in baseball, that's what separates the average guy from the real good one," Manuel said, comparing Hopkins to Phillies Roy Halladay and Chase Utley.

"It's about being a champion," Manuel said.




Posted on: April 20, 2011 1:24 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Is this the year the Phils trade for a hitter?

For five straight years, the Phillies have traded for a starting pitcher at midseason.

Is this the July they deal for a hitter?

That depends.

If the last eight games represent what the Phillies really are offensively -- just 23 runs and a .540 team OPS, with only 10 extra-base hits -- then maybe they do. Even before the Phillies lost the first two games of this week's series with the Brewers, manager Charlie Manuel was bemoaning his team's lack of power.

As Manuel pointed out, Ryan Howard is the only true home run threat in the lineup right now. As one scout following the Phillies said, "The left fielder [Raul Ibanez] isn't the same guy, and right now the shortstop [Jimmy Rollins] isn't the same guy."

So they need help? Again, that depends.

It depends on whether Chase Utley can come back -- it seems now that he will, although Phillies people say Utley's condition seems to vary by the day -- and more than that it depends on whether Utley can hit as he did pre-injury.

"Utley's hit 33 home runs before," Manuel said. "He hits 25-30 home runs [in a regular year]."

That would be huge, because as Manuel said, "We've got some guys who hit 10-15 home runs. I don't know if we have anyone [besides Howard] who hits 25-30."

There are other ways to win, and despite their lack of power, the Phillies went into Wednesday's afternoon game against the Brewers with the second-best record in the National League, at 10-6.

The rotation of aces has pitched pretty much as expected, and will almost certainly keep the Phillies in contention -- at the very least -- until they figure out their offense.

"I think the Dodgers [of the 1960s] used to prove you can win with pitching and defense," Manuel said. "But Maury Wills stole 85 bases a year."

Jimmy Rollins used to steal 40-plus bases for the Phillies. But there are questions about whether Rollins can be that player anymore and, in any case, Manuel now has Rollins batting third, where he has fewer base-stealing opportunities.

Does he need help? Do the Phillies need help?

We'll see.


Posted on: March 9, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 3:00 pm
 

Without Utley, Phils' lineup has a big hole

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The problem for the Phillies isn't finding someone who can take over for Chase Utley at second base.

No, the problem is finding someone who can do what Utley does at the plate. The problem is finding someone who can drive in 100 runs and score 100 runs.

Good luck.

The Phillies still don't know how long they'll be without Utley, who hasn't played this spring because of what they've described as patellar tendinitis in his right knee. But the club announced Wednesday morning that "additional opinions" will be sought, and it's clearer than ever that Utley could miss significant time.

That likely means Wilson Valdez plays second base, at least in the short term. The Phillies could still add another utility infield type, and perhaps they could even make a bigger trade, although right now a deal for someone like Michael Young seems highly unlikely.

Valdez filled in well at shortstop last year when Jimmy Rollins was hurt, and he also started 35 games at third base in place of Utley last year. But if Valdez can capably fill the vacancy at second base, there's no way he can take Utley's place in the Phillies' offense.

Without Utley, as Manuel pointed out, the Phillies are missing their third- and fifth-place hitters from last year. Jayson Werth, of course, left last winter as a free agent.

Manuel hit Placido Polanco in the third spot in Wednesday's spring game against the Tigers. He said he has told Polanco that he'll also hit fifth at times.

Polanco is a quality hitter, one of the best No. 2 hitters in the game. But he has never driven in 100 runs in a season in his career, and only once scored 100 runs in a season.

Manuel listed Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins as two other candidates to hit third. But Rollins is the Phillies' leadoff hitter, and Manuel isn't sure he wants to take Rollins out of that role.

As Manuel said, "It'd be better and easier if [Utley] is in there."

And that may be why Manuel is holding out hope that Utley will recover quickly.

"We've still got time," he said Wednesday.

They still have time. Right now, though, they still don't have Chase Utley.


 
 
 
 
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