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Archive for March, 2012

Phillies at Halfway Mark in Exhibition Games

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Vance Worley     Jimmy Rollins    Kyle Kendrick

As the Phillies approach the halfway mark in the exhibition schedule, Vance Worley has been impressive in the spring of his sophmore season in MLB giving up but 2 runs in ten innings of work over a 3 game span.   He’s been particularly brilliant over the last eight innings striking out 11 while giving up 4 hits.  Reliever Antonio Bastardo has also been impressive in four innings of relief over 4 games, giving up just 1 hit and no runs.  Kyle Kendrick has been great as well, giving up 4 hits over 8 1/3 innings while striking out 9 and holding opponents scoreless in 2 relief efforts and 1 start.   Closer Jon Papelbon has given up 6 hits, but only 1 run thus far this spring, while walking 2 and striking out 4 in five innings of work.

Ace starters Roy Halladay and lefthander Cliff Lee have been dinged a few times in the exhibition season while working to iron out some rough edges.  Neither Halladay nor Lee seem concerned, although some reporters have expressed alarm. The other ace, lefthander Cole Hamels also may be struggling a bit this spring, although he’s only been scored on twice in 10 2/3 innings over 3 games.  He’s given up 11 hits over that span while striking out 7.  Hamels has only walked 1 this spring, while Halladay has issued 1 free pass and Lee 2.  Joe Blanton, competing with Kendrick and Worley for either the 4th or fifth starter spot, tossed scoreless ball in his first 2 starts before giving up a 3 runs, including a homer in five innings in his most recent start which the Phils utlimately won over Atlanta last Thursday by a 6-4 score.

Offensively, the Phils have neither looked impressive nor consistent having scored 84 runs over 17 games through Saturday for about an even 5.0 average per game.  But then again, they are without two of their biggest cogs in 1st baseman Ryan Howard and 2nd baseman Chase Utley, and their other horses;  shortstop Jimmy Rollins, rightfielder Hunter Pence and centerfielder Shane Victorino have yet to find offensive consistency.   3rd baseman Placido Polanco seemed to be finding his hitting eye before reportedly going down with a sprained finger.     Utley might make it for opening day, but don’t look for Howard before May.   Therefore, the Phils hope for consistency from Rollins, Pence, Victorino, and hopefully Polanco while trying to patch together some offensive punch until they are back at full strength.

Reports note that Utley should debut in exhibition games next week.  Dontrelle Willis’ attempt at being a lefthanded arm in the bullpen failed, despite his clean inning Thursday vs the Braves, as the Phils released him on Friday.

Phillies’ First 10 Exhibition Games: Some Positives and Negatives

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

  Joe Blanton    Wilson Valdez    Hunter Pence   Jon Papelbon

Through the first 11 Grapefruit League exhibition games, the Phillies sport a 5-5 record with 1 tie.On the positive side, 2 of the 3 pitchers engaged in the battle for the 4th and 5th starter jobs in the rotation — Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick — have yet to be scored upon in five innings of pitching each.   “The Doc” Roy Halladay has been banged up a little in the early exhibition going giving up a single run and 3 runs (on a 2 homers to the same guy) in his first 2 starts spanning five innings while lefthander Cliff Lee threw two innings of shutout ball in his opening start while giving up 2 runs, including a homer in his 2nd start over three innings.   Lefthander Cole Hamels gave up a run over two innings in his first start while tossing three shutout innings in his most recent start.
  Vance Worley
The 3rd man in the 3 man competition for the fourth and fifth starter spots, Vance Worley, who was 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA as a rookie and was in the competition for Rookie of the Year in 2011, was touched for 2 runs in two innings in his first outing, but came back on Monday with a perfect four inning,  8 srikeout effort.Two of the names to watch out of the bullpen: closer Jon Papelbon and lefthanded set-up man Antonio Bastardo have shown well in their early exhibition stints.  Papelbon has given up a run in three innings of work while Bastardo has given up only 1 hit in three innings.

Offensively, the Phils have scored 57 runs in 11 games (5.18 run average per game) while hitting 10 homers without the presence of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, both rehabbing after surgery, in the lineup.  Rightfielder Hunter Pence leads the team with 2 homers having hit one in each of the first 2 games of exhibition while picking up 6 hits in 21 at-bats in his 9 exhibition appearances.   3rd baseman Placido Polanco got into 2 games getting a hit in each of them in a total of 5 at-bats.    Shortstop Jimmy Rollins (5 for 17 with a homer in 8 games) and centerfielder Shane Victorino (5 for 21 with a homer) are collectively hitting below .250 BA.

These notes are only bits and pieces as it is too early to see indications of team performance or how the opening day roster will shake out at several positions.

Phillies Begin 2012 Quest for Success

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Welcome back subscribers to Blogging Baseball as the 2012 Spring Training exhibition games begin, and as the Phillies begin their quest for success — hopes for a sixth straight NL East championship, which would be their third NL pennant in six seasons, and for their second World Championship in six seasons.

Blogging Baseball went into a early 2011 post-season hiatus after the Phils loss of their divisional series in 5 games to the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.   As 1st baseman Ryan Howard tore his achilles tendon on the final out of the decisive 5th game, this author was in the midst of dealing with personal issues.

Ryan Howard
This season, blog posts will be less frequent, but hopefully more concise and even more informative.

The Phils begin the new season minus a few familiar faces are missing and some new faces have been added:

Who’s Gone:
GM Reuben Amaro Jr. let last season’s standout closer, and a fixture in the Phils’ bullpen for years, Ryan Madson go in free agency, just when it looked like a deal was about to be signed and sealed keeping Madson in Phils’ red pinstripes.  Madson, and his agent found the free agency closer market tough this off-season and Madson ultimately signed with the Cincinnati Reds for far less than he and his agent had hoped for, and far less than Amaro paid to sign Jon Papelbon away from the  Boston Red Sox.
Wilson Valdez
Popular utility infielder, and nineteenth inning pitcher Wilson Valdez was released by team in the off-season and signed by Cincinnati.Leftfielder Raul Ibanez, a fixture in leftfield since 2009, was released by the team after another slumping season in 2011.  He signed with the Yankees and opened the exhibition season going 1 for 3 with and RBI double as the Yankees beat the Phils in their Saturday game by an 8-5 score.

Starting pitcher Roy Oswalt, thought to be the fourth of the four aces rotation and who suffered through an injury-ridden 2011, still shows up on Yahoo sports as connected with the Phillies although his name does not show up on the Phils’ spring training roster.

Outfielder Ben Francisco, whose seventh inning winning pinch-hit 3-run homer made a winner out of starter Cole Hamels and gave the Phils a temporary 2 games to 1 lead over the Cards, was released by the club in the post-season.

Closer Brad Lidge, the hero of the 2008 Championship season and who successfully closed 48 games without a blown save as the Phils won every game where they had a lead in the eighth inning, was released by the club after having sub-par subsequent seasons and suffering with leg and back injury issues.  Lidge was picked up by the Washington Nationals.

Who’s New:
With Howard’s projected return to the active roster unknown, the Phils went looking in the off-season for stop-gaps to fill the hole left, as well as to bolster their utility corps and pinch-hitting.  They acquired former 1st baseman and possessor of over 600 career homers — Jim Thome from the Cleveland Indians, as well as Ty Wigginton, who can play both 3rd base and 1st base as well as the outfield corners and hit for some power,  and Laynce Nix who can also play 1st base as well as all 3 outfield positions.

The Phils also went for bolstering their bullpen with acquisitions of closer Papelbon, reliever Chad Qualls, as well as former  Marlins’ phenom Dontrelle Willis, who could give additional lefthanded relief flexibility should lefthanded reliever Antonio Bastardo get shelled as ocurred in the final games of the 2011 regular season.  Papelbon had a perfect fifth inning in the opener with the Yanks.

The 2012 Phils look to rev-up their offense, which at times during the 2011 season went flat putting additional pressure on their rotation of aces and the bullpen.   They need more productivity out of leadoff hitter and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and returns to form by 2nd baseman Chase Utley and 3rd baseman Placido Polanco — both oft-injured in 2011.  2/3rds of the outfield look solid with the ‘Flyin’ Hawaiian’ Shane Victorino in centerfield and Hunter Pence in right.  The real question in the outfield is:  Will 2012 be the season that Domonic Brown proves ready for major league prime time and lock down the leftfield spot vacated with the release of Ibanez, or will he be platooned with John Mayberry Jr.?  Mayberry Jr. could also see time at 1st base, along with Thome, Wigginton and Nix — on spelling Howard until he returns.   Imagine a lineup of Rollins, Polanco, Wigginton with Utley batting clean-up and Pence batting 5th.

With the first 3 spots in the rotation solid locks with aces in Roy Halladay and lefthanders Cliff Lee and Hamels, there will be a heck of battle for the 4th and 5th starter spots between Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick and rookie sensation Vance Worley.   If there is any pitching questions, they focus on the bullpen.  Will David Herndon and Michael Stutes deliver as in 2011.   Will Antonio Bastardo repeat the lights-out performances of 3/4 of the 2011 season or flame-out early.   And will Dontrelle Willis come out of the bullpen to spell Bastardo in the lefty relief spot?  Will young relievers Joe Savery and Michael Schwimer rise to major league levels and give the bullpen a lift?   Will Jose Contreras return to the form his showed in 2011 before going down with his injury. Will Papelbon be a lights-out closer with the Phillies, as he was through his seasons with the Red Sox?   Will his performance in 2012 approach or exceed Madson’s level of 2011?How the offense and relief pitching perform seem key to the Phillies’ fortunes in the 2012 season. By the way, the Phils and Yankees played their exhibition openers on Saturday with the Phils on the short end of the score.  The two teams play again on Sunday, this time in the Yankees’ Florida venue.   

Here’s hoping for an NL pennant and World Championship in 2012.  Let’s go Phillies!!