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Archive for March, 2011

Phillies Finish Exhibitions, Halladay, Myers in 2011 Opener

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

                             Roy Halladay     Citizen's Bank Park   Bret Myers

The Phillies completed their spring exhibition schedule and have Thursday off to fly north and prepare for Friday’s season opener, the 1st of a 3 game series against former Phils Bret Myers, lefthander J.A. Happ, and centerfielder Michael Bourn, as well as leftfielder Carlos Lee and the rest of those Houston Astros at Citizen’s Bank Park.  “The Doc” returns to operating arena as Roy Halladay opposes Myers in the opener.

The Phils broke camp after going 2-1 in their final 3 games, edging out Houston and splitting the final 2 games in Clearwater against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Phils’ offense showed on Monday and Tuesday as they scored 7 and 8 runs respectively, but sputtered to a total halt in the final against the Bucs as starter Charlie Morton who won but 2 games while losing 12 in 2010, threw five innings of 1 run, 1 hit ball.   The Phils notched but 2 hits for the game and could only salvage 3 other walks, 2 off of Morton and 1 off the Buc bullpen.   Meanwhile, lefthander Cole Hamels was touched for 2 runs on 4 hits, including a homer, in three innings.  He struck out 3 and walked none.  Joe Blanton was touched for a run on 4 hits, also in three innings, as he also struck out 3 and walked none.   The Phils’ bullpen looked ready for the season, even with the prospect of 3-6 weeks on the DL for closer Brad Lidge, but an offense of 1 run, 2 hits is not exactly the kind of momentum to take into a season opener.

The Phils took a week of look at former Mets 2nd baseman Luis Castillo and then released him seeing how well utilityman Wilson Valdez and Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez performed in camp.   Valdez will apparently get the lionshare of spelling Chase Utley at 2nd base for the duration of Utley’s stay on the DL.

After Friday’s season opener between Halladay and Myers, lefthanders Cliff Lee and Wandy Rodriguez match up on Saturday and Roy Oswalt opposes former Phil J.A. Happ in Sunday’s opening series final.

Below are the boxscores and recaps of the final 3 exhibition games:

Phillies Play .500 Over 12 games, Halladay Ready for 2011 Opener

Monday, March 28th, 2011

After the Phillies built a 13-7 record over their first 20 exhibition games, they’ve played .500 over the past 12 games as 3 of their 4 aces have been roughed up in several starts.  While the Phils have gone 6 and 6 and have 3 more exhibition games to play, we do know this for sure:  Ace of aces, “The Doc” Roy Halladay is fired up and ready for Friday’s regular season opening engagement with Brett Myers and the Houston Astros.  Halladay was masterful a week ago, pitching into the eighth inning while giving up 1 run on 5 hits against the Boston Red Sox.

Roy Oswalt also seems season-ready although going 1-1 in his 2 recent starts.  Oswalt gave up 2 third inning runs in a fine six inning effort 10 days ago giving up 5 hits, striking out 5 with no walks as the Phils nipped the Pittsburgh Pirates in a low scoring game.   But he was roughed up for 2 fourth inning runs by the Tampa Bay Rays last Wednesday before being knocked to the ground by a line drive to the neck off of the bat of Manny Ramirez.  Fortunately, after staying down for nearly a minute, Oswalt stood up and was able to walk off the mound on his own, without assistance.  Subsequently, the club reports that X-rays came up negative and he’s had no ill effects. other than a bruise, from the blow in back of his left ear.

It’s a mixed bag for the other 3 starters as lefthanders Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have had their ups and downs: good outings followed by bummers, as has Joe Blanton.   We have to believe though, that the four aces will ready for action and perform approaching potential when the regular season bell tolls.

In the bullpen, latest reports on Brad Lidge’s status indicates that he’ll be starting the season on the DL.   But we’ve seen during the exhibition season, as we did last season, that Jose Contreras performs capably when called upon to spell Lidge in a closing role.   Ryan Madson and the rest of the bullpen have also performed consistently.   MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki provides a report on the state of the bullpen with Lidge opening on the disabled list and with righthander Scott Mathieson and lefthander Mike Zagurski optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Offensively, and on the field, with an awareness that 2nd baseman Chase Utley is sidelined indefinitely with a right knee injury, the Phils hope for a 2nd base answer in signing Luis Castillo who had been recently released by the Mets.  Castillo was a day late in reporting, due to a “mix-up with his agent.”   To date, in the 5 games he’s played with the Phils, Castillo is 3 for 17 with 3  runs scored and a fielding error.  AP reports the signing numbers on Castillo for Yahoo sports:

Castillo is in the final season of a four-year, $25 million contract. The Mets are responsible for most of the $6 million remaining on the deal, with the Phillies having to pay Castillo the major-league minimum of $414,000 if he’s added to the roster.

Meanwhile, 1st baseman Ryan Howard and outfield hopefuls, the real surprises of the spring, Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. continue hammering the ball. It seeems that they either will platoon in rightfield until  Domonic Brown is healthy, or Francisco will nail down right with Mayberry Jr. providing outfield depth.   The Phils have posted 5.5 runs on average over the past 12 games. and

The Phils close out exhibition play by hosting Houston on Monday, and hosting Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Wednesday.   The have an free day on Thursday before opening the season by hosting Houston for a 3 game weekend series.

Below are the boxscores and recaps of the last 12 exhibition games:

Phillies Keep Winning With Hot Offense, Injuries Mount

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

The Phillies offense continues to come into it’s own taking batting practice on their Grapefruit League opponents while winning 7 of their last 8 games and racking up a 13-7 mark thus far in exhibition play.  The performance of the starting rotation has been mixed with lefthander Cliff Lee having been pounded in three innings of work on Thursday as was Kyle Kendrick  (5 runs, 5 hits, 3 homers) on Saturday.  For Kendrick, it was his first spring training start since having being slotted to the bullpen for 2011.   Lefthander Cole Hamels suffered a similar pounding — 2 runs in the second inning, 3 in the fourth, giving up 3 HRs in 3 2/3 innings.   And Joe Blanton got off to a rough first inning start on Tuesday giving up 2 runs on a homer, but settled down to pitch three more solid shutout innings.  As written previously on this blog, better that starters get bad outings out of their systems during exhibition games than in the regular season.

The bullpen has been a mixed bag as well, although the offense continues to produce enough big innings and runs for the Phils to keep winning.

But injuries to major components of the team keep mounting.  This blog has discussed  here and here the injuries to top outfielder prospect Domonic Brown and to 2nd baseman  Chase Utley.  But now, add closer Brad Lidge and 3rd baseman Placido Polanco to the list.  In one of Saturday’s split squad games, Lidge was battered for 2 runs on 3 hits in a walk in an inning of work.  On Monday, it was reported that Lidge was scratched from that day’s game:

…because of tendinitis in his right biceps. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said that while Lidge typically has soreness during the spring, Phillies management would err on the side of caution.

Lidge seems to think little of the tendinitis — that he’s had it before, but the club seems to be taking it more seriously.

Polanco appears to have hyperextended his elbow in his only AB in Monday’s game.  Manager Manuel pulled him after the AB as a precaution as the third baseman had elbow surgery this past off-season.   Polanco claims being day-to-day with the injury and told the media:

“It’s right where I had the surgery, but it’s nothing bad. I’ve had it before. I’ve had it a million times. But the fact that I had surgery in that elbow, we’re being very safe. We’re going to play it safe and see how it feels tomorrow and then the next day, a day at a time.”

However, PhilliesNation comments:

The Phils third baseman seems genuine about the injury, although the Phillies PR team whistled a different tune before Polanco spoke. They said it had nothing to do with the area that was surgically repaired in the offseason, but after exiting, Polanco said it was the same spot. Who is telling the truth?

From having blogged the Phils for the past 5 years, Polanco’s “day-to-day” could be but a short hop from the DL, but we shall see.

Meanwhile, both remaining outfield hopefuls Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. continue blistering the ball in exhibition play thus far.  Mayberry Jr. has 4 homers while Francisco has 3 thus far in exhibition play.

On Tuesday, apparently in fear for his leftfield position, Raul Ibanez opened up going 2 for 3 with a homer.

And utilitiy infielder Wilson Valdez continues his surprising spring by ripping the ball as well, including a 3 run double down the line in leftfield amidst a 5 run eighth inning flurry on Tuesday.

Below are the boxscores and recaps on recent games:

The Phils have an off-day on Wednesday before playing Toronto and Pittsburgh on Thursday and Friday respectively in Clearwater, travelling to play Baltimore on Saturday and returning to Clearwater to take on the Yankees and Boston on Sunday and
Monday respectively.

Phillies Win 3 of 4 as Offense Begins to Jell

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Phillies starting pitchers continue to excell with lefthander Cole Hamels going four innings on Tuesday, Joe Blanton going five on Wednesday and “The Doc” Roy Halladay pitching six shutout innings on Thursday.   The only mar on the performance of the starters was the 5 runs given up by Roy Oswalt on Monday.  But if you’re gonna pitch a dog, spring training is the place for it rather than in the regular season.

In addition to 3 excellent starting rotation performances in 4 games, the bullpen appears to be taking shape.  Allowing 4 runs given up in 17 1/3 innings is not too shabby considering the fact that some of the relievers are non-roster invitees.  But the best news is that the Phils are starting to score runs in clusters — two 4 run innings and a 3 run burst in the last 2 games.  And they are scoring with 2nd baseman Chase Utley not in the lineup.

After Utley was administed a cortisone shot in the knee to attempt to alleviate patellar tendinitis, it emerged that he developed irritated kneecap cartilage and anterior knee pain.  As irritated kneecap cartilage, anterior knee pain irritated kneecap cartilage, anterior knee pain.  As PhilliesNation surmises, Utley may well be out for a loing period of time.  The Nation has 2 other worth-reading pieces regarding Utley’s leg woes here and here.   Also, this week outfielder-hopeful Domonic Brown had surgery on his broken hand and Yahoo reportsto 6 weeks.

Outfielders Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr., both righthanded hitters, are fighting it out for the rightfield starting job.  Mayberry Jr. is tied with 1st baseman Ryan Howard with 3 homers for the spring so far.  Francisco has 2 dingers and all 3 of the abovementioned are pounding the ball.  2nd string catcher Brian Schneider is also enjoying a fine spring, including 2 homers thus far.  After games, the Phils record stands at 8-6.

Below are the boxscores and recaps on this week’s games:
that the youngster will be out for 4

On Friday, the Phils travel to Sarasota to play the Baltimore Orioles.  On Saturday, the Phils play split-squad games with Tampa Bay in Clearwater and in Bradenton vs the Pittsburgh Pirates.  On Sunday, the Phils travel to Fort Myers to face the Minnesota Twins.

Phillies Starters Solid, Continue to Play .500 Ball

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Phillies starters have looked very impressive over the six exhibition games between Wednesday and Sunday, but the offense has been on and off.  As a result, they split these games, including split-squad games on Sunday.  In addition, we have learned that 2nd baseman Chase Utley was given a cortisone shot in his right knee in attempt to improve to relieve his tendonitis.  In addition, rightfielder hopeful Domonic Brown suffered a broken hand fouling off the first pitch he saw on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Brown followed with a single on the next pitch, but was pulled from the game with a hand injury.

Regarding Brown, PhilliesNation cites Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com who reports:

Brown broke the hamate bone in his hand and will  likely be out 3-6 weeks after surgery.

The Nation also notes discussion that:

It can take between 12-18 months to regain full power after a broken hamate in the hand…

If true, this may be the last we see of Domonic Brown until sometime in the 2012 season.

As for Utley, Phillysportscentral.com’s Justin Adkins noted Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s comments:

Amaro hints that it’s likely more than tendonitis as well but isn’t willing to go there just yet.

“We feel it’s patellar tendonitis.  Could it be more than that? Perhaps,” Amaro said. “Right now that’s what we have.”

But Phillies starters have been a bright spot over the last 6 games giving up but 4 runs in the last 19 2/3 innings, including fourteen shutout innings, 10 of them over the last 3 games.  They look in April, season-beginning form.  But it will be very interesting to see how things go when the starters are stretched to six and seven inning as the exhibition season wears on.

Regarding the offense, 1st baseman Ryan Howard has been hitting well over the last few games and has 2 homers over the past 5 games.   Outfielder Ben Francisco continues on his exhibition season tear, thus solidifying his claim to the rightfield slot, utility man Wilson Valdez has been a hot hitter and  outfield hopeful John Mayberry Jr. clubbed his 1st homer of the spring — a solo shot in one of the Sunday games.  But leadoff hitter and shortstop Jimmy Rollins and the rest of the offense has yet to show the cohesion needed to begin the season with momentum.  Valdez has shown well when used at 2nd base to spell Utley.  And there is talk of switching 3rd baseman Placido Polanco back to 2nd base should Utley be out of commission for a protracted period of time.  Presumably, Valdez would then play 3rd base.

Here are the results of the Phils’ last 6 games:

Phillies Split First 4 Exhibition Games

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The Phillies broke even in their first 4 exhibition games after first pounding the University of Florida Seminoles by an 8-0 score in a warm-up game last Thursday.

The Phils split their home-and-home series with the Yankees over last weekend as lefthander Cole Hamels looked solid throwing 33 pitches in his first 2 innings of work at the Yanks home field in Tampa while giving up a run and 2 hits while walking 1 and striking out 2.  Rightfield hopeful Ben Francisco and veteran minor league catcher Dane Sardinha were the hitting stars for the Phillies on Saturday with Sardinha garnering 2 hits including the game winner — a two-run bloop single to left in the eighth inning off of Yankee non-rostered reliever Eric Wordekemper as the Phils edged the Yanks by a 5-4 tally.  Shortstop  Jimmy Rollins was scratched from Saturday’s lineup due to having missed a few days of training camp with an excused absence — having attended a Motown tribute on Thursday at the White House in Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, the Yanks returned the favor clubbing the Phils by a 7-3 final, despite an excellent shutout 3 inning pitching exhibition by #5 starter Joe Blanton.  Blanton walked 1 and struck out 1 and gave up no hits.  The Yanks charged to a 6-0 lead with 2 runs in the fourth and 4 more in the sixth off of 2 Phillies minor league relievers.  They notched their 7th run in the ninth as non-rostered invitee 1st baseman Jorge Vazquez lit up closer Brad Lidge for a solo shot.  Ben Francisco put on a hitting show for the Phils notching 2 hits and driving in 3 runs, including a run-scoring double in the seventh and a 2 run blast in the ninth.

The Phils travelled to Dunedin, Fla. and beat the Toronto Blue Jays by a 6-3 score on Monday.   Ace of aces Roy Halladay was impressive in 2 shutout innings giving up 2 hits, walking 1 and striking out 1.  3rd baseman Placido Polanco went 2 for 3 driving in 2 runs, Ben Francisco went 1 for 2 with an RBI and starting catcher Carlos Ruiz went 1 for 2 driving in 2 runs as the Phils scored 2 in the second inning off of Blue Jays starter Jo-Jo Reyes, who went 2 innings , 1 in the third and 3 in the fourth off of reliever Carlos Villanueva.  The Jays scored 3 runs late, 1 in the seventh off a non-rostered reliever and 2 runs on 2 hits in the ninth off of relief hopeful Scott Mathieson.

On Tuesday, lefthander Cliff Lee started his first exhibition game in a Phils uniform.  You’ll recall that Lee was shelved for a few days at the beginning of training camp due to a strain under his left armpit.   As a result, there was some  rustiness in his maiden spring training outing in Clearwater against the Detroit Tigers.   Lee hit the leadoff hitter, then threw a wild pitch before giving up and RBI triple.  After a sacrifice fly, the Tigers went up by 2-0 in the first.   Lee threw a scoreless second inning and managed 3 strikeouts in  his 2 inning stint.  Reliever Kyle Kendrick replaced Lee in the third and was impressive in a two inning 2 hit shutout stint.  A non-rostered Phils reliever was pounded for 4 Detroit runs over the fifth and sixth innings as the Tigers went up 6-1.   The Phils notched single runs in the third and the sixth innings as the Tigers prevailed by a 6-2 final.

Absent from the Phils offense so far has been young Domonic Brown, the prospect for whom the Phils carry high hopes as possibly filling the rightfield slot vacated when Jayson Werth went free agency to the  Washington Nationals.   Phillies Nation provides these early observations:

-Ben Francisco knocked in another run, his fifth in four games. Obviously these games mean little, but it’s still nice to see someone doing well rather than struggle.

-Danys Baez pitched a scoreless inning. It happened, swear.

-Second baseman Josh Barfield had two hits in this game. Could Barfield stick as another backup? He’s had several years of major league service, but has been unable to live up to his hot prospect billing of a few seasons ago. Barfield is still just 28 and did have a solid rookie year back in 2006 with San Diego. Maybe the Phillies can get something out of him.

-Chase Utley still hasn’t been running and there is no timetable yet on his return, but Charlie Manuel told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he’s progressing. Just looks like they’ll take it very slow with him and that’s fine by me. I do hope he gets a few at-bats before Spring Training ends.


Another of the 4 aces starters Roy Oswalt makes his first exhibition start as the Baltimore Orioles come to Clearwater to meet the Phils on Wednesday night.    The Phils travel to Ft. Myers to meet the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, then play a home and home series with the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton on Friday before heading back to Clearwater to meet the Bucs on Saturday.