Posted on: June 10, 2011 8:41 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 10:16 pm

After first blown save, how will Madson react?

Ryan Madson was perfect in his first 14 save opportunities for the Phillies this year. There was justified talk that Madson had finally adapted to pitching the ninth inning and had proved that he can close.

But even as he was doing it, some people in the Phillies organization were asking how Madson would react when he inevitably did have a blown save. How would he bounce back?

We'll find out now. Madson's first blown save of the year came Thursday night, on a Geovany Soto home run.

How will he bounce back? Chad Durbin, who spent the last three years with Madson in the Phillies bullpen, thinks he'll do just fine.

"Absolutely," said Durbin, who is now with the Indians but follows the Phillies as closely as he can. "He can close in any division. I think that comes with throwing the eighth inning in the playoffs. The eighth inning in the playoffs is like closing in the regular season.

"He's at the point now that he wants the ball in that situation. He'll be fine."

The Phillies had a ninth-inning save situation Friday night, but Madson didn't pitch, presumably because he had worked four times in the last five days. Manager Charlie Manuel split the ninth inning between Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo instead, and the Phillies beat the Cubs, 7-5.
Posted on: June 10, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: June 10, 2011 10:49 am

3 to Watch: The CC sees the Indians edition

CC Sabathia won't pitch against the Indians this weekend, so the Yankees left-hander will have plenty of time to go see his ex-teammates.

If he can find any.

It hasn't even been three years since the July 2008 trade that sent Sabathia from Cleveland to Milwaukee to start off the latest Indians rebuilding project. But the lineup from Sabathia's final Cleveland start includes just two players (Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo) who are still with the Indians now.

The current lineup, which has the Indians (barely) holding on to first place in the American League Central, features two players (Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta) who were acquired in the Sabathia trade, another (Carlos Santana) who was acquired in the Casey Blake trade three weeks later, and another who (Asdrubal Cabrera) was acquired in a deal two years earlier when the Indians traded the guy who just became the Marlins hitting coach (Eduardo Perez).

"They seem to be able to trade everyone and start over," Sabathia said this week. "That's what they did when they traded for Cliff [Lee] and Grady [Sizemore]."

He's right. Sabathia was 21 years old and in his second year with the Indians when Cleveland traded Bartolo Colon to Montreal for Lee, Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens. That trade built the Indians team that lost to the Red Sox in the 2007 American League Championship Series.

Four years later, Colon is Sabathia's teammate in New York, and the Indians have rebuilt again, with the trades of Sabathia, Lee, Blake and Victor Martinez playing big parts in it. And while it's hard to believe they can hang on to win the AL Central -- their lead over the fast-charging Tigers is down to one game, heading into the weekend -- the young players acquired in those deals have inspired renewed hope for the future.

One part-time Indians fan now pitching for the Yankees is inspired.

"I was excited [earlier this year], and I am excited," Sabathia said. "It's a really good team."

It's an Indians team that needs a few wins, after a 4-11 stretch that has seen Cleveland's division lead drop from seven games down to one.

Sabathia wouldn't go so far as hoping the Indians win this weekend, but after they leave town Monday, you can bet he'll be pulling for them again -- even if all his old friends are gone.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Carlos Zambrano created a stir last week, when he said the Cubs were "playing like a Triple-A team." But scouts who have watched the Cubs recently say Zambrano had truth as his defense. The Cubs have been awful of late, even if Zambrano (2.03 ERA over his last four starts) hasn't. Zambrano has actually outpitched Roy Halladay (3.41) in that span, but Halladay's Phillies won all four of his start, while Zambrano's Cubs won only two of his. Now they meet, in Cubs at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.

2. You think Sabathia has a hard time finding ex-teammates who are still in Cleveland? How about Colon? The last time he pitched for the Indians, his manager was Charlie Manuel, his closer was Bob Wickman, and the Indians lineup featured Ellis Burks, Jim Thome and Travis Fryman. Oh, and Frank Robinson was in the other dugout, managing the Expos. Colon has faced the Indians eight times since (going 4-3 with a no-decision), and will again in Indians at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium.

3. If Cardinals-Cubs is the old rivalry in the National League Central, and Cardinals-Reds is the "new rivalry," then what do we call Cardinals-Brewers? They're in first and second place, respectively, they have some history, and they meet this weekend. The matchups even work out, with Zack Greinke facing Chris Carpenter in Cardinals at Brewers, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Miller Park. Greinke has some history with the Cardinals, too. He faced them six times in the I-70 interleague rivalry with the Royals, and hasn't lost to them in four appearances since 2005.

Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 2:58 pm

DatDudeBP was DatGoat for Reds

PHILADELPHIA -- On one side, the longest game of the year was all about Wilson Valdez.

Great story.

On the other side, it was all about Brandon Phillips.

Not so great story.

Valdez is the utility man who pitched a hitless 19th inning for the Phillies in the early hours of Thursday morning, becoming (according to the Elias Sports Bureau) the first player since Babe Ruth to start a game in the field and end up winning it on the mound.

Phillips is the sometimes spectacular Reds second baseman who spent the hours after the game apologizing to Reds fans for getting picked off at a key moment in the 11th inning.

The Reds had runners at first and second, Phillies pitcher J.C. Romero was struggling to throw strikes, and cleanup hitter Scott Rolen was at the plate with a 3-1 count. Phillips, on second base, got caught talking to Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and Romero picked him off.

Reds manager Dusty Baker said Phillips apologized when he returned to the dugout.

After the game, Phillips, who tweets regularly and sometimes amusingly under the name @DatDudeBP, wrote on Twitter: "I want 2 apologize 2 all the #Reds fans 4 my mistake tonite. It was my fault 4 the loss, but I will keep my head up and get ready 4 the next game."

Asked Thursday morning if he planned to talk to Phillips about the play, Baker said: "I don't have to talk to him. The whole world is talking to him. All the great things Brandon has done, that [pickoff] could be shown for years. I still see [Jose] Canseco getting hit in the head."

Meanwhile, Valdez was back in the Phillies lineup for Thursday's day game, playing third base. He got a standing ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning.

A few other noteworthy developments on Thursday:

-- Baker said that had the Phillies not scored in the 19th, shortstop Paul Janish would have pitched the 20th inning for the Reds. He planned to put outfielder Chris Heisey at second base, move Phillips to shortstop, and insert pitcher Sam LeCure in the outfield. He said LeCure and Jay Bruce would have alternated between left and right field, depending on which hitter was at the plate.

-- LeCure and Matt Maloney were in the Reds bullpen, but both were unavailable to pitch because of heavy workloads early in the week. The Reds put Maloney on the disabled list Thursday, and called up Daryl Thompson. The Phillies also made a roster move, sending Daniel Herndon to Triple-A and activating Jose Contreras from the DL, but that was planned.

-- Since Valdez was in the game, he didn't warm up in the bullpen before pitching. Bullpen coach Mickey Billmeyer quipped: "He's a reliever, but he's not a bullpen guy."

-- One Phillies executive joked, "We can go with 11 pitchers now, because we have Valdez." But Phils PR man Greg Casterioto admitted he missed a chance, when he didn't list Valdez in the bullpen section on his daily notes.

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 8:26 pm
Edited on: May 25, 2011 8:27 pm

Blanton won't be back anytime soon

PHILADELPHIA -- The news could be worse for Joe Blanton, but don't expect him back soon.

A week after the Phillies right-hander was scratched from a scheduled start because of a sore elbow, the team announced Wednesday that he won't even begin a throwing program for 3-4 weeks. On that schedule, Blanton would do well to return before the All-Star break.

Blanton visited Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday, and the Phillies said that Andrews concurred with the diagnosis from their own doctor.

Blanton has made just six starts this season, going 1-2 with a 5.50 ERA.

Category: MLB
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: May 22, 2011 9:07 pm

3 to Watch: The Halladay (and Wood) edition

When Roy Halladay threw nine shutout innings against the Reds last July, he didn't get a win -- because of Travis Wood.

When Halladay threw his playoff no-hitter against the Reds last October, the guy who came closest to getting a hit was Travis Wood.

So how perfect is it that when Halladay goes against the Reds on Wednesday night, for the first time since that playoff no-hitter, his mound opponent that night will be . . . Travis Wood?

It's a big week at Citizens Bank Park, if only because Chase Utley will join the Phillies lineup for the first time on Monday night. But the highlight of the week's schedule comes two nights later, with Roy Halladay against Travis Wood.

When they met in that game last July 10, Wood took a perfect game into the ninth inning, when Carlos Ruiz broke it up with a leadoff double. Halladay allowed five hits that night, in the first game since 2002 where both starting pitchers carried a shutout through nine innings (it happened again earlier this month, with Seattle's Jason Vargas and Baltimore's Zach Britton).

It was a little shocking to see a pitcher come that close to a perfect game against the Phillies.

And it was truly shocking to see a pitcher throw a no-hitter in the playoffs, against a Reds team that had scored the most runs in the National League last year.

Or maybe it wasn't, given how good Halladay looked that night.

"It's not fun being up there trying to hit nothing," Joey Votto said.

And, yes, Wood was the guy who came closest to a hit. Right fielder Jayson Werth had to slide to catch Wood's sinking line drive in the third inning.

Wood didn't start that game for the Reds. He took over for Edinson Volquez in the second inning. And just as he did in that game in July, he held the Phillies without a run and gave up just one hit (in 3 1/3 innings).

Wednesday, he and the Reds get another chance.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Does it surprise you that a year after hitting 54 home runs, Jose Bautista is actually ahead of his 2010 pace? Does it surprise you that Curtis Granderson is second in the major leagues in home runs, behind only Bautista? OK, well does it surprise you that Granderson has hit more home runs on the road than at home, at the famous Yankee Stadium bandbox? Or that Bautista has hit more home runs at Target Field than at Yankee Stadium, in a lot fewer games? Maybe Granderson and Bautista can do something about that this week, starting with Blue Jays at Yankees, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. And, speaking of surprises, Bartolo Colon is the Yankees starter.

2. When the Red Sox got swept in Cleveland the first week of the season, we were shocked that the Sox could be off to such a bad start. And we totally ignored the possibility that the Indians were good. Maybe they're not, but seven weeks later, the Indians still have a better record than the Red Sox -- and everyone else in the game. And now here we are again, with Red Sox at Indians, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Progressive Field. We'll notice the Indians this time, especially if Justin Masterson beats the Red Sox again. He's 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA against them since going to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez trade.

3. On that night that Wood carried a perfect game into the ninth inning, the Reds lost to the Phillies, 1-0 in 11 innings. No surprise. The Reds have lost their last eight games in Philadelphia, and 13 of their last 15, heading into the series that includes Reds at Phillies, Wednesday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park. Halladay didn't start all of those games -- but he will start this one.

Posted on: May 22, 2011 4:23 pm
Edited on: May 22, 2011 4:41 pm

Utley will return Monday

The Phillies already have the best record in the National League.

Now Chase Utley is coming back.

Utley, who missed all of spring training and the first seven weeks of the regular season with a knee injury, will make his 2011 debut Monday night against the Reds. The Phillies announced the move after Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Rangers. To make room for Utley on the roster, the Phillies optioned Pete Orr to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Also, in another expected move, the Phillies put Joe Blanton on the disabled list and recalled Vance Worley, who is expected to start in Blanton's place on Tuesday night.

While the Phillies have survived without Utley, there's no doubt that their offense could use a boost. The Phillies have scored just 15 runs in their last nine games, and Sunday's shutout loss was the their fourth of the season.

Utley went 9-for-32 (.281) in nine rehabilitation games for Class A Clearwater, with two doubles and one home run. The Phillies have suggested that he may need extra days off, at least for the next few weeks.

The Phillies have listed Utley's condition as right knee tendinitis/chondromalacia. He saw a string of specialists this spring, and there was some question about whether he would be able to play at all this year.

Blanton is on the DL for the second time this year. He missed two weeks with an elbow problem, came back and made two starts, then scratched from his next start just before gametime when the elbow flared up again.

Worley pitched well in Blanton's absence before, winning both his starts while allowing just one run in 12 innings.
Category: MLB
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